Ireland has significant competitive advantages in the form of an environmentally sustainable rain-fed, grass-based, production system for milk. Systems based largely on grazing can produce milk at approximately one-third of the cost involved in completely confined (non-grazed) production systems. VICCI partner Teagasc supports competitiveness and sustainability of pastoral production by breeding better varieties of perennial ryegrass suited to this production system. One of the limiting factors of current varieties for this extensive pastoral production system is that, due to the natural annual growth cycle of perennial ryegrass, there is a deficit of utilisable biomass for grazing in the late autumn and early spring. One of the components of maximising the grazing season is the availability to grow in cold conditions, resulting in earlier access to grass at the beginning of the season. In addition to low temperature stress, crops like perennial ryegrass also experience waterlogging during spring growth conditions in Ireland.
In VICCI, we will use a combination of contained environment and field screening to identify germplasm that exhibits the ability to grow under the combined abiotic tresses of cold and waterlogging. Germplasm identified in this screening process will be subjected to a combination of transcriptomic and metabolomics analysis to identify genes and pathways involved in this economically important trait.