U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government


Main content area

Value of permanent grassland habitats as reservoirs of Festuca pratensis Huds. and Lolium multiflorum Lam. populations for breeding and conservation

Peter-Schmid, Madlaina K. I., Kölliker, Roland, Boller, Beat
Euphytica 2008 v.164 no.1 pp. 239-253
Festuca pratensis, Lolium multiflorum, forage grasses, permanent grasslands, germplasm conservation, habitats, ecotypes, phenotypic variation, plant genetic resources, plant morphology, cultivars, gene flow, introgression, Switzerland
European natural and semi-natural grassland form reservoirs of genetic resources containing highly adapted and variable ecotype populations of forage plants. Variation within these reservoirs is stimulated by variation in natural and anthropogenic site-related factors. Changes in agricultural practices lead to the loss of many characteristic habitats. In order to preserve resources for breeding, targeted conservation strategies for germplasm in gene banks (ex-situ) or on site (in-situ) are needed. In order to define site-related criteria for the potential of habitats to preserve valuable resources for breeding and conservation, 38 different habitats across Switzerland were selected to collect Festuca pratensis Huds. and Lolium multiflorum Lam. ecotype populations. Phenotypic variation and population differentiation of 60 single plants were evaluated in a field experiment using 16 morpho-physiological traits. For F. pratensis, ecotype populations and cultivars were clearly separated and there was a significant correlation between diversity of morphological traits and geographic location of sampling sites. For L. multiflorum no clear separation of ecotype populations and cultivars was observed suggesting gene flow from adjacent temporary leys into permanent grassland. Several ecotype populations were superior to cultivars in important traits such as early heading or resistance to winter damage, indicating the importance of natural habitats as a reservoir of genetic resources for breeding. In conclusion, maintenance of permanent grassland in contrasting environments appears to be a promising strategy for preserving valuable genetic variation of forage grasses.