Better Pasture Performance from Plant breedersThursday, May 24, 2001
Genesis and Wrightson’s are setting off down an interesting path with their planned programme
to breed high productivity grasses using genomic research and bioinfomatics announced in a news item
The real interest lies in the implied ‘something for nothing’ in terms of live weight or
production gain by grazing livestock.
The plant breeder’s intention to fully understand the interactions between the plant and animal
in terms of energy, live weight, milk and wool production and reproduction plus an increase in animal
performance by up to 50 percent has a very attractive ring to it.
The something for nothing gain in the plant breeders statement that the new grasses perform contrary
to conventional dry matter based production-thinking opens up a whole new range of pastoral farming
efficiencies. Particularly in terms of raising energy intake within the limits of appetite of the
Conventional dry matter based thinking has always implied an understanding of the underlying quality
of the dry matter in terms of mega joules of ME per kg of DM.
Does the Genesis/Wrightson announcement therefore mean that future pasture species will have 15-16 mj/ME
per kg/DM rather than the current 10-11 mj/ME normal from conventional pasture? Unbelievable
perhaps but then these are times when the unexpected can rapidly become the norm.
If such gains are possible from the new breeding technologies what an exceptional improvement and where
does this research sit with New Zealand’s traditional pasture researchers?
But the final irony is that although the intellectual property of the new work will lie with the proprietary
companies, it is based on historical strength of the particular low cost pastoral production
systems developed in New Zealand.
It is clear that NZ farmers will not be the sole beneficiaries if this new research proves successful.
Our competitors will also have access to the same advances due to the commercial intention of the
Free markets and level playing fields are a double-edged sword!