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Book: Contributions from Breeding Forage and Turf Grasses
Published by: Crop Science Society of America



  1.  p. 71-104
    CSSA Special Publication 15.
    Contributions from Breeding Forage and Turf Grasses

    D. A. Sleper, K. H. Asay and J. F. Pedersen (ed.)

    ISBN: 978-0-89118-594-9


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Breeding Forage Grasses to Maximize Animal Performance1

  1. Gordon C. Marten
  1. USDA-ARS, University of Minnesota, St. Paul, Minnesota


Animal performance may depend heavily upon the true feeding value of a forage grass that can be expressed as the nutrients used per unit of time. Breeding of forage grasses to improve animal performance has been documented to be successful in several cases where breeders have selected germplasm for greater leafiness, improved digestibility or palatability per se, and reduced alkaloids. Grass breeders must be alert to the influences of maturation, leafiness, stand condition, environment or environmental adaptation, capacity to mix with high-quality legumes, pest susceptibility, and potential antiquality constituents when they select for feeding value improvement. Yield need not be sacrificed in order to gain quality improvements in many instances, but small sacrifices in yield can be acceptable if quality improvements increase animal performance. Small improvements in digestibility or intake of a grass can result in large differences in animal performance. The influence of antiquality constituents can supersede the influence of digestibility and intake in some grass species. Excellent laboratory methods are available to aid breeders in screening grass germplasm for improved digestibility, reduced fiber-component concentration, and possibly improved intake potential. Near infrared reflectance spectroscopy (NIRS) has great potential as a fast and precise method for screening large numbers of genotypes for most feeding value traits that are quantifiable by current or future chemical, physical, or biological methods. New developments in the areas of cell wall carbohydrates, phenolic compounds, plant anatomy, protein degradability, mastication and particle flow, and other mechanical stability merit careful attention. We need a “bidirectional” selection approach, imaginative selection criteria based on theoretical as well as proven concepts, and an interdisciplinary research effort to hasten progress in breeding improved grasses to maximize animal performance.

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