Track 1-03

Description

The majority of Canadian beef production takes place in the three prairie provinces of western Canada and seeded pasture and hay land provides a large proportion of the feed for these cattle. This region is characterized by low to moderate rainfall (300-500 mm annually) and extremely cold winters; thus, forage species grown must have high tolerance to cold and drought. Perennial grass breeding for the region began in 1922 and has continued for ninety years in two programs. Major seeded grass species were introduced into Canada from Eurasia. Significant developments from this program include: the development of Fairway crested wheatgrass (Agropyron cristatum L.) (1932) which was used to revegetate more than 0.5 million ha of eroded land; the introduction and development of improved cultivars of meadow bromegrass (Bromus riparius Rehm.) (1987) which were rapidly adopted by beef producers, making it the most popular grazing species in the prairie provinces; the development of hybrid bromegrass (B. riparius X B. inermis Leyss.) cultivars (2000) which have become popular dual purpose hay/pasture grasses; and the development of green wheatgrass (Elymus hoffmanii K.B. Jensen and K.H. Asay), which is highly tolerant to soil salinity. Recently, there has been increased demand for native Canadian grasses to be used for forage, conservation and reclamation purposes and cultivars or ecological varieties of several species have been released or are under development. Perennial grass cultivars developed in these programs occupy a large portion of the seeded hay and pasture area in the Northern Great Plains region of Canada.

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Ninety Years of Perennial Forage Grass Breeding for the Canadian Prairie Provinces

The majority of Canadian beef production takes place in the three prairie provinces of western Canada and seeded pasture and hay land provides a large proportion of the feed for these cattle. This region is characterized by low to moderate rainfall (300-500 mm annually) and extremely cold winters; thus, forage species grown must have high tolerance to cold and drought. Perennial grass breeding for the region began in 1922 and has continued for ninety years in two programs. Major seeded grass species were introduced into Canada from Eurasia. Significant developments from this program include: the development of Fairway crested wheatgrass (Agropyron cristatum L.) (1932) which was used to revegetate more than 0.5 million ha of eroded land; the introduction and development of improved cultivars of meadow bromegrass (Bromus riparius Rehm.) (1987) which were rapidly adopted by beef producers, making it the most popular grazing species in the prairie provinces; the development of hybrid bromegrass (B. riparius X B. inermis Leyss.) cultivars (2000) which have become popular dual purpose hay/pasture grasses; and the development of green wheatgrass (Elymus hoffmanii K.B. Jensen and K.H. Asay), which is highly tolerant to soil salinity. Recently, there has been increased demand for native Canadian grasses to be used for forage, conservation and reclamation purposes and cultivars or ecological varieties of several species have been released or are under development. Perennial grass cultivars developed in these programs occupy a large portion of the seeded hay and pasture area in the Northern Great Plains region of Canada.