Our animals love to eat it and we love to grow it, but what really are the differences in the varieties of ryegrasses out there? From annual, hybrid and perennial types to diploids and tetraploids, there’s a lot to cover here, including one of the most overlooked factors in getting the best out of your ryegrass – its flowering date.
Let Al and Juddy take you for a wander through a topic on ryegrasses and get an appreciation for just how important it is to New Zealand’s agriculture.
"Ryegrass as a species is the single most important plant in the New Zealand economy."
Juddy So in this particular episode, Allister, what are we going to be talking about?
Al I believe we're going to be talking about ryegrass and ryegrass types. We're going to cover all of the benefits to New Zealand farming systems and discuss the types and the continuum across the range of styles. Cover off flowering dates, grazing management do a bit of what's new at Agricom because that's pretty exciting, covering off some management: base things like sowing dates and by the looks of this agenda, it's in no particular order. So by the time we get to the end, I think we'll have a pretty strong appreciation for just what ryegrass means to New Zealand agriculture.
Juddy So you might say this is kind of just a wander through the topic of ryegrass types. And I think hopefully there's going to be some information here that puts this into context because I guess, you know, ryegrass is a very familiar plant, but we probably don't appreciate sometimes the real powerhouse that it is.
Al I think that's fair to say Glenn, it's quite a confused topic at times, I feel, because the word ryegrass covers a lot of things. And yes, they're all green and yes they're all Lolium species but the reality is you can confuse a lot about what you're actually putting on your farm by not understanding exactly what sort of ryegrass you're dealing with. I think the thing that I'd like to share and I feel it's because it is such an important plant in New Zealand's landscape, it can get focussed on by different regions where it may not be so successful and meet people's expectations to the same degree. But have no doubt ryegrass as a species is the single most important plant in the New Zealand economy. And it's a magnitude bigger than literally anything close to it. There was a paper done by the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research on how valuable is the plant species to the New Zealand economy, and it was published in 2015, and at that time, ryegrass was worth $14 billion to the New Zealand economy. The next most important plant species for New Zealand at that time was pinus radiata, and it was only worth $4 billion to the New Zealand economy. Now this is all the things that flow from it, from selling seed to the plant producing animal products that are sold and the turf industry, the international export. Every aspect was covered in this report. White Clover was one of the very next most important plant species to the New Zealand economy, and that was worth $2 billion. And then you came down, and in 2015, the grape industry was just cracking one billion to the New Zealand economy. And you go a long way down the list to see the other species that we use commonly in New Zealand farming systems, and many of them, many of them that we know are suitable for certain landscapes, we're down in the millions, like tens of millions and not even in the hundreds of millions. So the scale difference between the value that ryegrass contributes to New Zealand is just amazing. And so yes, it's not perfect for everyone. But there's a big picture at play here, and the species itself is magnificent. And I would add one more thing as we start to paint the picture is that when we look at ryegrass in New Zealand, there are so many places around the world that use all these other species that would love dearly to be able to farm ryegrass like we do. And it's our temperate, our predominantly temperate environment that, may be changing around the edges, that gives us this unique opportunity to truly benefit from what we're achieving with ryegrass.
Juddy So, so if we looked at, you know, those others from around the world looking and saying we'd love to be using ryegrass. What are the key things? Let's talk about the key things that ryegrass brings to a farming system that people, maybe in New Zealand have forgotten or don't recognise where others are looking and going, wow, that would be really, really useful. So what are the key attributes of ryegrass and what do they bring to a farm system?
Al Well, across the range, we will discuss the range of ryegrasses shortly, but the key is it's an incredibly fast establisher. So the planting of the seed and achieving grazing is second to virtually no species. And you'd have to leave the pastoral species and head towards oats to get another species that will compete to being able to be placed in the ground and then be ready to be utilised and make money and enter the grazing system as fast as possible. Now that doesn't sound like much, but when you look at some of the semi-arid species, some of the species that we're looking at, they establish at about half the speed of ryegrass, which means if you're waiting for your first economic return, you could be waiting for another two to three weeks and that total amount of drymatter is a lot less than what ryegrass can supply. So this flexibility in the establishment and the vigour that comes with the establishment means a high consistency of outcome. We're placing a ryegrass plant in the ground and we're getting a result so often because it meets so many people's expectations, from establishment vigour to first use on farm,
Juddy And I guess talking about the range of situations it’s been established into, it's something that doesn't often fail regardless of, you know, some of the environments that it’s being placed into.
Al Yeah. There are a few pasture pests that give it a hard time during the establishment phase. But, you know, we are on the lookout for them. So the establishment phase, particularly, it's just a special plant. And as soon as you move towards other species in the New Zealand landscape, they have less vigour. They are nowhere near as consistent. The management requirements around them are really good. They are all very important for the farm locations where they work, and we will cover them at a later date. But these are the strengths of ryegrass that people don't realise. The other part is because we're a temperament environment, we rely heavily on carrying animals through our two big limiting times of the year. One is summertime and the other is winter and ryegrass is an absolutely awesome autumn and winter growing species, and it's changed our ability to carry animals. So all around the world ryegrass is predominantly winter dormant, and we are one of the few countries in all the world that value true winter activity in this temperate landscape and driving winter covers enables our calving dates for the dairy sector, lambing dates for the sheep and beef industry. It helps with carrying capacity and when the future of all grass wintering gets into the discussion, the autumn growth and the winter growth of ryegrass is still right at the top of all species we've got available to us.
Juddy I think the other thing that impresses me about the species is its ability to be tolerant to a large number of grazing managements. You know, we are able to shut this plant up and create relatively large covers and use it in terms of deferred grazing. We can get that on a really short rotation and we can graze that, you know, in terms of, you know, some treading damage it's probably one of the plants that it's really appropriate. So it is very,as a forage, it's a very flexible plant and I guess that we've lost sight of some of that. So let's start talking about the types of ryegrass we've got because I want to come back to, you know, we talk about seasonal growth patterns and I'll take your point there because we're in a temperate environment we do have grasses that are literally growing all year round. But let's talk a little bit about the ryegrass types in terms of some that are more perennial and some that are more annual. Take us through that continuum Allister.
Al Yeah, so that's a really important point, Glenn, they are all ryegrasses. So when the word ryegrass gets bandied around, you actually don't really know what you're communicating. So at the at one end of it, you've got a Lolium Mulitflorum type plant, which is actually a short term ryegrass species. It's designed and it lives to, particularly the Western world's types, the common term annual ryegrass. So this is ryegrass. This is part of the ryegrass world. So when we bandy around the failure of ryegrass, is ryegrass persisting, or whatever the topics we like to talk about with ryegrass, the reality is we still have got to keep remembering when we just use the word ryegrass, it could be any of the things I'm about to mention. So at the start, we have a true annual type. This is regularly sown in the autumn and will attempt to go to seed prolifically through the middle to end of spring, early summer and then when the plant has done its life cycle it will actually actively start to try to die. There are only a few genotypes within each cultivator that may continue through the summertime and you'll see a natural death event that occurs and that is a natural trait of annual ryegrass. And the Lolium Multiflorum world, though we have true biannuals, these are what we commonly call Italiens and this is an area in New Zealand that we've successfully bred for persistence over time. And that is the ability to select second and third year plants and continue to utilise them in breeding programmes. Before you know it, we've created out of what is a relatively short term species, traditionally biannuals last for about two years and then decline, New Zealand genetics has been highly successful at pushing that style of plant out. But as I say, not an annual. It will actively try to live for more than one year. And then what we have is an absolute continuum between the Italian and annual and a true perennial type Lolium Perenne, they cross-pollinate successfully and you can create a continuum of types between a broad Italian like material that is recognised to be very vigorous from establishment, very high in winter growth, that's the trait type, to a perennial ryegrass, which has less winter activity, in New Zealand we breed for that, but has less winter activity than Italian, but is very, very productive in summer time, returns to leaf in summer time. The trait differences between the Italians is that Italians will continue to try and seed through summer where perennials will try to go back to a vegetative state. So when they cross pollinate, you get this hybrid category, which, it's all very well talking about a hybrid ryegrass, but it's in the breeder's hands as to which end of that continuum the genetics move to. Is it at the Italian end and looks very much like an Italian? Or is it the perennial in which we may not even tell it apart from a perennial and everything in between?
Juddy So actually, really good point here, because I can see how what we need to do is match the expectation of those plants with actually what we've got. So in some cases when we hear of oh my ryegrass isn't persisting and yet we've got an annual or an Italian type, that comment needs to match the expectation of how long it should last for. And so I guess if we were looking for something that was truly perennial, but we're sowing something that is actually Italian, then actually the expectation of those two things don't match up.
Al And likewise, if you're playing with the hybrids and what part of the continuum those hybrids are would define exactly how that is.
Juddy So and this is a critical point here, is when you buy seed and you see it in the bag, can you tell the difference in terms of looking at the seed between a perennial and maybe an Italian?
Al Yes, you can. And the seed of an Italian, an annual and a hybrid will have tip awn's. They'll have little eyelashes sitting on top of the seed. So it's a real telltale sign that is an annual Italian or a hybrid seed in your mixture when the seed has what could only be described as a small eyelash growing at the top of or up the top. Some of these will break off, but there's always a small awn sitting on the end of those seeds, whereas the perennial typically shouldn't have a lot of awns at all, if any at all. So the one part of this continuum that gets a bit messed up is that ryegrass has something quite special Glenn, and what it has is another we've been mentioning in past podcasts about legumes and their special relationship with rhizobia, a natural living bacteria in soil and forming nodules that capture atmospheric nitrogen and provide the legume with an advantage. This is self feeding nitrogen cycle for that plant. While ryegrass, particularly perennials, hybrids and some Italians have also got this very special relationship with a fungus called endophyte. And this symbiotic relationship for me is just as important as the rhizobia is for legumes, and endophyte has evolved with ryegrass naturally as it moved across the Mediterranean and entered a whole lot of different environments where different insect pests were pressures on the species ryegrass as it left the last Ice Age. It started to move out, all across the Mediterranean and right out towards Spain, we've found these fungus ryegrass interactions that have given us the ability in New Zealand to actually breed endophytes with different alkaloid profiles. And endophytes are a small fungus that transfer through the plant in the seed but live in the pseudostem mass of a perennial type ryegrass plant and provide alkaloids. And these alkaloids have quite a few different powers, all of which are there to defend the plant. So this is a symbiotic relationship that defends the plant from a lot of stresses.
Juddy Yeah. So I guess the symbiosis here is that the plant gives the endophyte somewhere to live and nutrients in terms of survival. In return, the endophyte provides some alkaloids which protect the plant from grazing, and therefore we've got
Al by both animals and insects.
Juddy Yeah. So, so and we can get those in almost all of the ryegrass types?
Al Yes, we can. Particularly as I think the concept is that it transfers in the seed, which is the mother plant, although ryegrass plants produce both pollen, which is the male element, and seed, which is the female element, and it's a cross-pollinated species, so technically the seed has to be pollinated from elsewhere. So the endophyte is a living thing and it only survives in the maternal element of the plant, so it travels up the stem and then colonises the seed and is passed on to the next generation.
Juddy So it doesn't come through the pollen?
Al It does not, and it cannot move between plants. Once a plant loses its endophyte, it can never get it back. So this messes with those continuums a little bit because this is like a persistence injection in a world where actually in New Zealand, we do have pasture pests that really target ryegrass.
Juddy So what you're saying here is that although an Italian ryegrass might be down the least persistent end of that spectrum, if we're able to include an endophyte, that kind of pushes it up the persistence spectrum of those of that continuum.
Al Correct. And I suppose for me personally, knowing we're going to have a different group of people listening from all over the country it's probably really important to be aware that your expectations are moulded by your pests particularly and environmental conditions. And with climate change we are seeing some quite big changes in the New Zealand landscape for ryegrass's reliability and success, depending on what you're using in that continuum. But the general trend is as we get more towards an oceanic sort of subtropical nature and Northland end to the Waikato the pasture pests and the climatic conditions are putting more and more pressure on, you know, meeting expectations, particularly with perenniality. But as you drift further south, cooler conditions, some of the pests that are involved aren't quite as dramatic. And as you head into the South Island, we experience a different range of pasture pests between the dry east coast versus the irrigated versus the natural rainfall environments where you also have different expectations on exactly how important endophyte will be. There are about five insect pests that are impacted by endophytes and these are very variable in how important they are in different regions. So a little bit more detail on this topic probably should be covered later because it's a very complex topic in its own right.
Juddy So there are a couple of terms that often get kicked around when we're talking about ryegrass, in particular perennials, but it can be in other parts of the continuum, is this idea of diploids and tetraploids. People say, you know, is that a diploid or is it a tetraploid? Can you explain to us at a very high level, what's the difference between a diploid and a tetraploid from a gene level? And then what are the things that that infers in terms of looking at the two plants?
Al Yeah. And again, a topic that we could probably expand on a later date because it can open up a whole discussion in its own right. But in general terms, ryegrass is found in nature as a diploid. Due to circumstance, you can definitely see individual mutations that occur in nature at a really low level, very rare, but it does happen when a plant has an event which creates a chromosomal doubling and the seed that comes from that is called a tetraploid and that can be naturalised. And then if there's enough of them that occur, it can actually create a small population. What happened probably midway through the last century, we actually discovered a way of deliberately creating tetraploids, and that has formed the two bases of ryegrass as we see them today: the diploid ryegrass and the tetraploid ryegrass.
Juddy So just to clarify that ryegrass in its natural state is a diploid, in terms of we've had some genetic changes in some individuals, which has basically created a doubling of the chromosome number and therefore those plants are now tetraploid. So tell us the differences that we see physically when we've got two plants in front of us from a diploid and tetraploid.
Al That's really an interesting development because you can take the same genetics and now with this technology, we can actually double the chromosome so you've got the same plant, the same genetic pull and create a tetraploid of it. And what are the visual differences between these? Well the primary difference with a doubling of a chromosome is that everything is bigger, so you tend to find the plant is bigger, the cells are bigger and the cell walls are stretched because of that. And you tend to find there are traits associated with quality that are associated with tetraploids. The other traits that really stand out are they are a uniformly darker version of their original diploid self. Yeah, darker in colour. So diploid ryegrass will be green and some of our more modern genetics go on the lighter side of that. But the moment you tetraploid it, it is very dark in colour. Nutritionally, with the base nutrition, they are very similar. There's no difference in crude protein, depending on nutrient supply and stuff like that. They just have different colouration. But the implications of making a bigger plant with bigger cell walls is that technically it can break down a little bit faster in an animal and give the animal a small opportunity to eat more and drive intake with the tetraploid over the diploid. The flip side of this is that becoming a bigger plant exposes you to more openness and the breeding, particularly in our business, is focused very heavily on creating density in tetraploids to create bigger resilience. You tend to find that they respond better to more fertile conditions. But with that extra palatability that comes with possibly elevated sugars, as well associated with that process, you find its elevated palatability to insects as well as animals, so there's also a slightly higher risk profile. So it has created some incredible positives, that's where we're using really successfully in our farming landscape today, but it also comes with an awareness that this trait has also created a slightly more vulnerable plant for certain timings and managements.
Juddy Yeah and in just picking up on the improved animal performance, because I think, you know, that's a key driver for people to make their decision to go to a tetraploid, across a number of experiments across a number of different countries and through time, those differences sit in three to five...
Al Yeah three per cent...
Juddy ...So we're not talking about a doubling in performance, but we are seeing a small but measurable increase in terms of performance, whether that be milk production, animal growth rates to the tetraploids over the diploids. But as you quite clearly point out, the downside is maybe some of the on farm systems stuff that in some cases, diploids may be more resilient.
Al Particularly under grazing intensity and probably wet soils, and probably also with significant pest pressures. Just also because it always gets confusing, this topic, you can have a diploid and a tetraploid in any part of that continuum. So there are tetraploid annuals, diploid annuals, tetraploid Italians, and diploid Italians. Hybrids and perennials can be both diploid or tetraploid. So you sort of do need to know that.
Juddy The other interesting thing that when we're looking at different ryegrasses and we're trying to compare them, make some decisions about what we might put in, flowering date also always comes up as a key difference between, particularly the perennials for example, but across the whole continuum. The flowering date is something, where there are some differences in, that are highlighted in a lot of material. Tell me what flowering date actually is, and then let's have a talk about what implication flowering date has on farm.
Al Yes. So that's actually quite a big story in its own right as well, because actually flowering dates quite a significant time in a ryegrass plant, it's the onset of seed head initiation. And basically, it's the elongation when the stem comes out. We've discussed, in different forums, how the stem is quite a big deal for pasture management and pasture quality, it doesn't matter what stem and what plant, once stems become lignified, which is basically they're starting to form much more fibrous forms, their quality drops quite dramatically. So understanding this is quite important. But just remember, stem elongation comes and it drives the plant upwards so when you're desperate for feed in the spring and waiting for what's described as the spring flush, the spring flush is often the onset of flowering in that sort of spring phase. And so therefore the date of your flowering has a big impact on when that spring flush can emerge. That has different impacts on different landscapes in New Zealand and I would suggest that the warmer you are, the less relevant it is because in the warmest of our spring environments, you can get really strong response rates vegetatively in ryegrass plants. So you use nutrients and you get a strong response rate because the climate enables a plant to vegetatively respond in colder environments, you actually need a helping hand and quite regularly the onset of seeding, or flowering, the initiation in the movement up is this big flush of growth which you're trying to capture while it's still leafy before it creates this two foot high three foot high liquified steam, which is a decrease in quality.
Juddy So the flowering date is when we talk about a cultivar and its flowering date, the flowering date is the date at which…
Al and the common usage is when about 50 per cent of all the seedheads have come out on a variety. And in these terms, we use a historic common variety called Nui as our standard. And it turns out, you know, Nui was created out of a South Auckland dairy pasture and it is very traditional of the style of ryegrass that got used widely across New Zealand right up until almost the 2000s. And that grass has its primary flowering date around the 24th of October, when the seedhead emerges. Now, that would be considered early in world terms, particularly in cold environments late-flowering is much, much more common – very late and even extremely late by our standards in New Zealand. So the weaknesses, though, of all the genetics for New Zealand is very few of those late flowering types of genetics around the world, are winter active. And so that's what we have bred and what we have changed as far as ryegrass in the world goes is we have created winter active late flowering genetics. Now, why has that been a bit of a game changer? It's taken all the quality management, all of the driver to be all over your pasture quality management through spring out of the equation. Because you're not throwing seedhead, you're not getting pasture decline all the way through September, October and November. And many of our late flowerers won't even start throwing seedhead until early to mid December. So when you look at that sort of impact, you're no longer worried about your whole environment going to seed on the same day on the 24th of October and worrying about losing control of your farm. However, you are now relying on the natural genetic potential of the variety to grow vegetatively in spring, and you're not getting the flush because you're not getting the onset of seeding at that time. So knowing when you're using lates versus when you're using mids is quite important to understand because it defines seedhead onset, which is the decline of pasture quality. But it also defines when you might consider you're getting the spring flush that extra growth that is coming from the elongation of that seeding phase.
Juddy There's actually understanding that from a management point of view it is really important. So we've got some early types and you've said that the traditional…
Al I'd still describe them as mid because there are some very early types in the world as well...
Juddy Yep. So and then, we've got these later types. And I guess, if we're looking at a pasture and we're making some decisions in the spring about when I'm going to graze or take silage or whether I can defer grazing, knowing what that flowering date is appears to be quite important because there are some paddocks that we could desperately need to be grazed in October because they are the mid flowering types. Whereas some of the later flowering types, we could actually defer grazing knowing that we're not going to get seedhead coming.
Al Juddy it's been one of the weirder sort of awarenesses in my whole career. I mean, I've been doing this job for about 25 years and it has really only been in the last three to four that it was like a lightning bolt moment to think that I stand in front of people constantly talking about this. But I've never really pushed it out there to say of all the things you should be reporting about what you're sowing on your farm, surely you should be putting on your farm plans the flowering date of the genetics you're putting in a paddock, because it defines literally when all the things are going on, it's incredibly predictable of when things are going to happen in the springtime in that paddock. And of course, we don't do that. You know, 99 per cent of farmers in New Zealand don't even write down what they've got in a paddock by name, let alone when it's going to seed because when you know your variety and its flowering date, I can literally predict when you're going to start losing pasture quality. I can predict when you're going to get the onset of that flush. I can predict exactly how it's going to perform in a window of time in all regions of New Zealand. So of all the things to write down on a farm plan. One of the most logical things would be to say what is the flowering date of my pasture mix?
Juddy So another question relates to flowering dates as well. Another question that's often asked is if I'm putting two ryegrasses in the same mix, right? What should my strategy be?
Al There we go. You've used that magical word ryegrasses. Perennial grasses?
Juddy Yeah. So if I'm using two perennial ryegrasses to take your point. If I'm using two perennial ryegrasses and I'm putting them in the same mix. Is it important to try and match flowering date so that they are similar? Or is it a legitimate strategy to have flowering dates that are quite different so that you don't get this big onset of flowers. There are two strategies here, and I often hear this. One is if they are all the same, then I can manage that; if they are quite different, it means that I'm not going to get in that paddock I'm not going to get a heavy flowering at one time, I'm actually going to spread it. So what would be your recommendation there?
Al Well, because discussions around perennial ryegrass always people discuss it from it's too complicated to talk about detail, you know, but the devil's in the detail. Part of that discussion is literally every single perennial ryegrass has its own individual characteristics. And so, for example, your varietal choice that still defines that answer. Within our breeding programme, we value a trait called low aftermath seedhead or breeding for low repeated seeding. But if you didn't select a variety for that, one of the weaknesses of creating mixtures with wide flowering dates is that although you may not get a lot of stem, you get a lot of what's called pseudostem. So you may manage elements of this. But what's happening is the stems are still being created and as they get grazed off, they create what's called a pseudostem barrier, which starts to define your grazing depth in a pasture. And in mixtures where these little brown stems are forming at the base of your pasture when they age and start brown off, they are defining how deep you can graze into that pasture because a cattle beast or a sheep is not going to poke its nose into a whole heap of sticks. Now the thing about ryegrass is it can seed multiple times, particularly perennial ryegrass, can have one two and sometimes even depending on the genetics three aftermath sort of seeding phases. All the time the pseudostem development is building up in your pasture, and this can create spongy pasture, and when I say spongy, high residuals in summertime in dairy systems and then you're getting rust and other dead material, which can give you facial eczema and things like that, are building up because your pseudostem mass has continued to develop, which is the stems that you've grazed off but still exist under the ground. So the wider your flowering dates, the more constant that is present in your pasture.
Juddy So I guess what I'm hearing here is going it's really useful to have a perennial ryegrasses of different flowering dates on farm to be able to spread some of the changes in terms of quality. But it's a bit more problematic to have perennial ryegrasses of different flowering dates in the same paddock, because that presents some problems to the grazing manager.
Al Correct, over time. And they're subtle but they tend to build up and reflect what might be happening in the following summer. I can't emphasise enough I wouldn't get too worried about seven days, but some of our genetics are over 20 to 25 days apart. So don't overthink it beyond, you know, seven days in an agricultural system is actually not that big a deal. But the reality is you can still put a zero in with a 20. And that spread of flowering is quite wide, and that's probably something I would suggest would lead to summer pasture quality issues.
Juddy So I'm just moving the conversation on a little bit more in terms of when we talk about maintaining quality in perennial ryegrass, in fact, in all ryegrasses. Let's have a little bit of a conversation about some of the things that we can look at in terms of knowing when to graze and probably how low to graze if we're talking about that. So there's this thing called, well, there's probably two ways of doing this. One is going and we need hit a pre grazing mass how much cover do we need before we start grazing? Because if we go too far, then we run the risk of having old material dead material and during the seeding phase, reproductive growth. So I guess in a lot of the dairy systems, you know, we talk about getting a pre grazing mass of 3000 or less to try and maintain that. And of course, at the same time, without building up too bigger masses, we're also allowing clover, for example, to hopefully live within that sward. The other one is leaf stage, and I guess it's another measure of when the ryegrass plant is probably ready to be grazed if that's the strategy you're after.
Al And just moving on that is that it does help define quite a few of these things because each leaf emerges depending on your climatic conditions. Just throwing it out there, I don't want to get into the detail of this beyond a certain point because there are some outstanding resources in the industry. Dairy NZ particularly have some outstanding information on their website on this topic, very good graphics, very good visuals and excellent explanations. But in true terms you graze and you are resetting a tiller and ryegrass is made up of a whole group of tillers and the leaves are all coming off a single tiller. And then your total growth is based on that. However, once you graze you're resetting the tiller, you're sort of starting and then you have a leaf emergence and you have a second leaf emergence and then you have the third leaf emergence. And by the time your fourth leaf emerges, your first leaf starts dying. And it's about between the two and three leaf stage that the plant is finding its space where it's got its canopy cover and it's starting to recycle nutrients back into itself to create energy stores. So there is a sweet spot from a quality perspective between a two leaf stage and a three leaf stage, which is a nice target. And it does actually regularly conform with a pre grazing mass of that two eight. And it always seems to fit best with a residual sitting around that 1450 to 1500 kilograms of drymatter. And that's where that sort of saying “grass grows grass” comes from, having the reserves, having the residual helps you to get ground cover, intercept light and start growing and maximising and optimising your growth and recovery phase. This topic is quite extensive, and as I say, there are some outstanding literature and easy access literatures in the industry. I really recommend heading to some of those websites to check up on that. It's pretty simple, nice visuals and I really recommend having a look at them. But that's the basics of that and the sheep and beef industry, I can't emphasise it's not quite as obvious because we are using grass differently and we're not often leaving the same residuals with sheep. And more importantly, due to the sheep system, we are also going through times of set stocking. At Agricom I can't emphasise enough, I select, and this is part of my job, products where I have total confidence in the range of management and mismanagement that our products can tolerate. I really don't want to hold the hand of every paddock I've got sown in New Zealand. It's literally an impossible task. And the reality is, I want to select genetics that you can use through periods of time any way you like, and I don't want to set a whole lot of rules around it, but these principles are really important to know.
Juddy Yeah, I think and I take your point here, I guess that's the principle in terms of when the ryegrass is comfortable, I guess the breeding over time has been the flexibility of this saying it can actually deal with not being perfect for a large part of that of the production cycle.
Al But remember, you've just generalised all over again. All these varieties in existence are different and are different in their tolerances to all these things. So again, the devil in the discussion around ryegrass is everyone generalises. But again, as I've always been mentioning through this particular discussion, the devil's in the details here and they're not all the same the tolerances to the wear and tear of real farming and all the managements that you may not get right and for how long you may not get them right. All I can say is that something I value in our genetics is to create grasses that when things go wrong they can bounce back. They can be managed and perform beautifully when things are great, but it's probably more a test of them when things aren't great.
Juddy So talking in terms of wrap up in the last topic, it's really interesting when I think across the different names of some of the products and in terms of are we talking about our perennial ryegrass or is this an annual. So maybe just our final topic, let's talk a little bit about Agricom's ryegrasses and look at the differences in terms of perenniality with some of those names because it's useful when we know what we're talking about with some of those products and which camp they fall into.
Al Oh, that's great, because these are my babies so this is actually my job. I'm a very privileged individual because I get to sit with the plant breeders and look at all their hard work and you know, they fill a lolly jar for me and my job is to pick a lolly that the most people tend to like. And that's one of the problems you do find is not everyone agrees with you and not everyone likes it. But I'm pretty proud of what our R&D engine, our breeding team and the individuals that have contributed to making these types of plants have achieved. In the perennial world I've got a flagship plant, a ryegrass that I, how to say this, over a long back story to because I sat there with a plant breeder and I took the 15 or so, I can't remember there was eight or 15 it was a long time ago, plants out of a cardboard box after they've been selected up in Northland. And I took it and its two sister lines out and planted them in the ground for their first cross, which started the process of creating this variety. And that variety is ONE50. So it's a diploid perennial ryegrass late flowering and it has become a very important grass to New Zealand agriculture. And to be fair, in a lot of the southern hemisphere agricultural zones that use perennial ryegrass ONE50 it is a very, very strong ryegrass. And that's a plus 20 flowering date. So it's a late, and it's one of the big first varieties that were that really true winter active late types. The next products that I commercialised were both Prospect and Request. Prospect is a +12 diploid perennial ryegrass and Request is a zero, a traditional flowering date for the New Zealand environment. Alongside that is a long-standing grass in our portfolio, which is called Samson and a lot of sheep and beef farms across all of New Zealand, there'll be very few sheep and beef farms that haven't used some Samson at some time in the last period of time. We have a tetraploid perennial, which is quite light flowering. It's a +28 called Halo, and that's a really strong, dense type. I see it as a very resilient tetraploid perennial, but I suppose I can't leave the perennial ryegrass category without just getting super excited. You know, I am selecting and releasing plants and on a cycle that's around a 12 to 14 year replacement cycle. And I'm coming into that phase right now where I'm releasing our next gen grasses at Agricom and the first of these is called Legion. It's a +13 flowering diploid, and it is doing super well into its second commercial year. I can't really leave that product without just saying some of its classic traits. You know, it's incredibly low for aftermath seedhead and it's just changing the style of grass we are seeing in perennial pastures for autumn growth, particularly and autumn growth, I have a feeling, is going to be more and more important to New Zealand's agricultural system as we go and our dealing with how do we get through winter. This coming autumn though we are releasing another mid flowerer and it will be the future replacement of some of our others, and that's called Reason. So that's another one.
Juddy So the hybrids, not the plug-in hybrids, but the perennial/Italian hybrids? What have we got there?
Al Yeah. So we've got a long-standing hybrid called Ohau. It's a tetraploid hybrid flowering date around seven or eight days later. It's quite a bit of a beast in spring, and it's doing us doing a really good job on that longer lived hybrid category. But like Legion, we've just released a new generation of hybrid called Mohaka and it's a beast and we're just loving having it in our portfolio. It's fitting so well into the emerging farm systems that New Zealand farmers are facing at the moment. And I do believe there are a lot of people that are really enjoying that out there at the moment. It has performed exceptionally well over the last two years. Dropping down that continuum into the Italians, we have an Italian called Asset and Asset is a diploid Italian. What makes Asset quite special was it was one of the first Italians to be bred with an endophyte and this is available without the endophyte, but also with A37 endophyte and that has elevated its reliability in different environmental zones. What I would describe Asset in what is quite a large market sector is that it's a really dense type and can take a lot of wear and we certainly value that in wet environments and when you're trying to look at your wintering and getting through winter. The last product in our portfolio is a tetraploid annual called Jivet and for Agricom that fits really nicely in our short term cropping rotations, where you're putting it in in the autumn and you're taking it out for a new crop, be it maize or be it brassica or fodder beet in the following spring. So Jivet's added a nice dimension to the ryegrass portfolio.
Juddy Well, Allister, I think we're done here I've just got to shoot off and knock a paddock over for silage, so we better get on with it.
Al Well, if you must Juddy. But if you don't mind, I'll quickly summarise a few take-home points from this session. Fundamentally, ryegrass is super important to New Zealand, you know, and it may not be the perfect plant for your specific farm because of your location in New Zealand, and it does change throughout it. But never underestimate just how important to the New Zealand economy ryegrass is, it is amazing. However, I've just used the term ryegrass and it is another important take home message is that there's a continuum between a true annual and a plant that wants to be a true perennial and is a perennial. But I also would like you to take home the message that using generic terms like ryegrass, even being generic about a perennial ryegrass or this or that, I can't emphasise enough that there is a lot of variation with each of those categories. Every plant and genetics is its own combination and it's a big generalisation to put them all in one pot. So that's a big take home message. It's very easy to generalise with these topics, but with all those generalisations, there are I wouldn't describe as true exceptions, but they're not all the same. From that, we looked at the importance of flowering date and, you know, New Zealander is quite special in that we are quite historically early around world standards. But where we're also quite special is that we've developed these late types that are winter active and that has really lit up the varietal choice in New Zealand, where the late ryegrasses have come into their own. And just to be aware again, that balancing those is probably a really appropriate thing that you can get the spring flush out of the more earlier styles, but you have the pasture quality through spring into early summer of the lates and hopefully going forward you have no limitations around winter growth. We did mention the grazing management over time, the resilience of ryegrass to a range of grazing managements and how we at Agricom value that and using, you know, resources that are existing and on online in New Zealand there are some really great tools around ryegrass management and the using the leaf stage as an indicator of readiness for grazing is really appropriate for keeping pasture quality in place. So that would be some of the key take-home messages from the session.
Juddy All right. Got to go, catch you later.
Al See you Juddy, bye.