15 Aug 2011

Call for independent pasture testing body

6:09 am on 15 August 2011

A visiting plant scientist says New Zealand needs an independent body to assess the performance of new pasture varieties.

Dr Pete Wilkins headed a research programme at Aberystwyth University in Wales which developed new high sugar rye grasses being used on a growing number of New Zealand farms.

Dr Wilkins, who is now retired from his research position, has been visiting farms in New Zealand using the high sugar grasses introduced to this country about eight years ago.

He's had positive feed-back from the farmers who say they've had increased milk yield and weight gains from stock grazed on the grasses.

Farmers are also finding the high sugar grasses to be a lot more robust or persistent than other new perennial ryegrass cultivars.

But Dr Wilkins says it's difficult for New Zealand farmers to get objective guidance on new pasture varieties because there's no national independent body testing and assessing them, as there is in the UK.

He says an independent testing body is vital, particularly for private breeding companies, to have targets to meet.

Dr Wilkins says otherwise companies use results from their own trials to market what they do and there is no quality control.

He says the Pukawa grass research facility in Hawke's Bay has done comparative trials on 26 varieties, including high-sugar rye-grass.

But he says that sort of trial needs to be done at different locations around the country and independently assessed.