AberStar breeder Dr Pete Wilkins (right) and British Seed Houses director
Paul Billings at grass breeding plots at IGER, Aberystwyth.
latest Aber High Sugar Grass (AberHSG) variety AberStar, which
makes it debut in NIAB's 2005-06 Recommended List as the highest
yielding intermediate perennial ryegrass with the highest Grazing
D value, is now available exclusively in British Seeds Houses'
AberHSG 3 long term grazing mixture.
According to plant breeders at the Institute of Grassland and
Environmental Research (IGER), where AberStar was bred, the variety
is the first of a new generation of high sugar grasses, offering
a significantly higher mean water soluble carbohydrate (WSC or
sugar) content than the established AberHSG perennial ryegrass
AberStar is the latest product of a forage grass breeding programme
at IGER that has focused over the last twenty years on quality
criteria, such as sugar content and digestibility, alongside
more traditional parameters including yield, persistence and
AberStar enters the NIAB Recommended List in the intermediate
diploid category with a yield at the first conservation cut (67
D value) of 117% of the control variety Fennema (equivalent to
1.15 tonnes/ha higher). Yields from simulated grazing trials
are similarly impressive, at 111% of Fennema (1.1 tonnes/ha higher).
As expected given its high water soluble carbohydrate content,
AberStar is also unrivalled for quality in the Recommended Lists,
with a Grazing D value of 11.6 (D value 71.6). This high D value
impacts significantly on the variety's total yield index (adjusted
for digestibility), lifting it above all tetraploid varieties
as well as equivalent diploids.
Dr Pete Wilkins, manager of grass breeding at IGER, said that
AberStar was the latest evidence of the significant progress
being made in the pursuit of higher quality forage ryegrasses
"Depending on management regime, the new generation of
Aber high sugar grasses are yielding on average an extra 40g/kg
WSC in our latest trials," he revealed. "The most recent
results represent an annual improvement of 5g/kg - or 0.5 percentage
points - over each of the past nine years of our Aber HSG breeding
"We are also widening the ratio between WSC and protein
in the grass, which will allow the animal to utilise the protein
Dr Wilkins explained that grass with a high WSC content provides
extra, readily available energy for the rumen microbes. This
results in the double benefit of allowing them to utilise more
of the available protein from the forage for meat or milk production,
while decreasing the amount of nitrogen lost in the urine.
"IGER animal scientists have recorded significant improvements
in stock performance when grass varieties had WSC contents at
least four percentage points higher than 'control' varieties
- so the improvements we are making should be very important
to the on-farm performance of these new generation of Aber high
sugar varieties," he stressed.
The confidence of the breeder and the consistently high performance
of AberStar through pre-selection for National List trials gave
IGER's marketing partner British Seed Houses sufficient confidence
in the variety to accelerate the normal seed production process.
As a consequence, AberStar is commercially available with immediate
effect as part of British Seed Houses' Aber HSG 3 long term grazing
mixture. Aber HSG 3 is exclusively made up of Aber High Sugar
Grasses, containing the established intermediate perennial diploid
AberDart and the late perennial diploids AberAvon and AberZest,
as well as AberStar. The mixture also includes the AberPasture
white clover blend.
Aber HSG 3 extends the range of Aber HSG mixtures that already
includes dual purpose and cutting leys. All are available from
seed distributors throughout the UK.