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Eucarpia Conference September 2011

The 29th EUCARPIA Fodder Crops and Amenity Grasses Section meeting was opened in Dublin Castle Conference Centre, today, 5 September by the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Simon Coveney TD and Teagasc Director Professor Gerry Boyle.

With over one thousand members, EUCARPIA (the European Association for Research on Plant Breeding) is one of the worlds biggest scientific associations focused on promoting co-operation on research into plant breeding and allied scientific disciplines. The meeting is being attended by over one hundred plant breeders and scientists from around the world. The theme of the meeting is “Breeding strategies for sustainable forage and turf grass improvement”, and it will have a heavy focus on how biotechnology based approaches, similar to genomic selection in cattle, can be applied to the genetic improvement of forage species such as perennial ryegrass and clovers.

Speaking at the conference, Professor Gerry Boyle stressed Teagasc’s role in ensuring that “cutting edge technologies find a route to deployment for the practical and profitable benefit of the farming industry” and that improved varieties of grasses and forage legumes are “a crucial component” in achieving the increases in dairy and beef production set out in the Food Harvest 2020 report. Speaking about Teagasc’s long history in the genetic improvement of forage species, he said: ”the Teagasc forage breeding programme is producing varieties to suit our growth conditions. To date the Teagasc breeding programme has released 21 perennial ryegrass varieties of different ploidy and maturity levels, 1 tall fescue variety and 8 white clover varieties”. Looking to the future, Prof Boyle said; “we are now seeking to replicate our success in the bovine breeding arena by implementing biotechnology based methods in our grass breeding programme over the next number of years”.

Molecular geneticists Dr Susanne Barth (chairperson of the organising committee) and Dr Dan Milbourne are leading the development of biotechnology-based tools for perennial ryegrass and white clover at Teagasc. Dr Barth said; “our new initiative at Teagasc involves close collaboration between scientists from disciplines as diverse as biotechnology and grasslands management, which will maximise the relevance and utility of the research we are doing to Irish pasture based production systems”.

Dr. Noel Culleton, head of the Teagasc Crops Environment and Land Use Programme, emphasised that Teagasc has long standing ties with EUCARPIA, as Teagasc’s predecessor, An Foras Taluntas, hosted the 4th section meeting 39 years ago. “Active participation in this type of international scientific forum is absolutely essential for an organisation like Teagasc, and we’re delighted to be able to continue our contribution to it by jointly hosting this meeting with the DAFF”.