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AR1 ryegrass is greener says Meat New Zealand

Meat New Zealand says that over 78,000 hectares of pasture have now been planted with AR1 ryegrass, potentially returning $12 million dollars to sheep and beef farmers who contributed to its development through meat levies.

Meat New Zealand R&D general manager, Neil Clarke, said that new figures show the farming industry has taken well to the successful commercialisation of AR1 ryegrass, and that in the last two years over 1570 tonnes of seed were sold, making up half of the total market for ryegrass seed.

"The 1570 tonnes of seed sold equates to 78500 hectares of pasture with AR1 in New Zealand. This could give an increased return of $12 million dollars to farmers, which is a great result." said Clarke.

"AR1 ryegrass has a non-toxic endophyte (fungus) which will make a significant impact on livestock production" said Clarke. "The AR1 endophyte does not cause ryegrass staggers in livestock, and trials show at least 50% reduction in dags, less flystrike, animal growth weight increases up 20% and reduced heat stress." Clarke also said that AR1 retains protection against pasture pests, particularly Argentine Stem Weevil. Significant milk production results are also coming through from dairy industry trials.

AR1 retains endophyte's positive role in ryegrass persistence while removing the negative potential for animal health. About 15 ryegrass cultivars, both short term and perennial are commercially available with AR1.

Clarke said: "This has been a breakthrough for New Zealand farming and has taken away a huge negative factor which costs farmers money. For those farmers wanting to establish new perennial ryegrass pastures, AR1 should be the first choice."

For those farmers unable to immediately replace pastures or on uncultivatable contour, Meat New Zealand is contracting AgResearch to develop tests to help identify the potential toxicity of existing pastures. Dominant ryegrass pastures over five years have a good chance of containing toxic endophytes. Meat New Zealand is contracting work to identify toxicity levels at different times of the year to help farmers fine-tune grazing management to minimise toxicity intake.

Clarke says that a farmer mentor group assists Meat New Zealand in identifying needs and prioritising project objectives for ongoing funding. "With farmers voting on the future of meat and wool levies every five years, putting the choice in farmer's hands of what they are spent on is all the more important when it comes to research."




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