Efforts to improve water-soluble carbohydrate (WSC) concentrations are common in perennial forage grass breeding. Perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne
) breeding has been very successful in developing new cultivars with high WSC and high agronomic performance. Breeding efforts are ongoing to improve the WSC of other perennial forage grasses, such as orchardgrass (Dactylis glomerata
). The United States Department of Agriculture Forage and Range and Deutsche Saatveredelung orchardgrass breeding programs cooperated to characterize the expression and genotype by environment interaction (GEI) of water-soluble carbohydrates in a collection of orchardgrass populations from both breeding programs. Additionally, the effort characterized the relationship between water-soluble carbohydrates and other agronomic and nutritive value traits in these populations. Overall, the Deutsche Saatveredelung populations had higher herbage mass (15%), rust resistance (59%), and later maturity. The Forage and Range Research populations had higher water-soluble carbohydrates (4%), nutritive value, and earlier maturity. However, results were highly dependent on GEI. Differences were very pronounced at the French and German field locations, but less pronounced at the two US locations. Combining the germplasm from the Forage and Range Research and Deutsche Saatveredelung programs may be a way to develop an improved base germplasm source that could then be used separately in the EU and US for water-soluble carbohydrate and other trait improvement.
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