Link: a better root system for a better environment



WP1 - Perennial Ryegrass-based Research

  • Estimated visible root length was linearly correlated with root dry weight
  • Several genetic markers were identified: this information will be used for future marker assisted selection to select for improved roots

WP1, WP2 and WP3 - legume-based Research

  • significant variation in response to drought, and genotypes that showed a capacity to maintain growth under drought were identified
  • potential benefit of the rhizomatous root trait in white clover-type germplasm in terms of improving resilience under drought conditions

WP2 and WP3 - Festulolium-based Research

  • dry matter production values highly positively correlated with root density scores
  • Genotyping by Sequencing (GBS) will allow to associate genomic regions with root and shoot traits measured, in order to evaluate responses to drought and recovery from drought

WP4 - Impact of root phenotype on water flow using the North Wyke Farm Platform (NWFP)

  • some evidence exists that the festulolium+clover swards provide some initial hydrological benefits (delayed initiation of runoff) additional to that of just ploughing
  • further, longer term, large scale plot studies which can include controlled grazing are required in order that the true impacts of the root phenotypes can be determine
  • Some evidence of higher carbon concentrations at depth (50cm) due to Festulolium (Prior monoculture)
  • Festulolium+clover sward accumulates more roots in the topsoil than other swards
  • Duration of project not long enough to see significant differences resulting from changes in soil structure and chemistry resulting from different root phenotypes
  • Results observed at plot scale with regard to hydrological responses do not directly transfer to field scale in the short term

WP5 - Participatory research on deep-rooting grasses and legumes to maintain viable productivity and soil protection on commercial development farms

  • Case studies from different farm types
  • Festulolium had higher root production under compaction soil than PRG
  • Both Festulolium and ryegrass had a similar total crude protein concentration at ensiling but after 90 days of ensiling, Festulolium had higher crude protein than ryegrass
Beef & Lamb
Project code:
01 April 2014 - 31 March 2019
AHDB Beef & Lamb, British Grassland Society, Coombe Farm, Dairy Crest Ltd, Dovecote, Dalehead Foods Ltd, Germinal Holdings Ltd, HCC, Mole Valley Farmers Ltd, Stonegate Farmers Ltd, Waitrose Ltd, Rothamsted Research Ltd
AHDB sector cost:
Total project value:
Project leader:
Aberystwyth University

About this project

The Problem:

Developments in the technology behind grass breeding means that different traits can be selected for, e.g. root growth at depth by using the IBERS National Plant Phenomics Centre.

The main advantages of deep rooting varieties are: their ability to withstand extremes of wet and dry are improved; they can improve soil structure and could reduce flooding risk; and they potentially lead to greater carbon sequestrations as roots die deeper in the soil.

These advantages need to be proved in field trials, and North Wyke Farm Platform to test the varieties and mixtures.


Aims and Objectives:

  • To evaluate the impact of grass and clover mixtures on soils, and optimise the impacts of grass and clover root interactions for root growth and turnover for crop production, for soil structure, carbon content and hydrology
  • To measure the effects of root growth and root turnover on carbon deposition in sand trays measured progressively over a 3 year period. Genome regions for root growth and turn-over will be located and transferred into high quality cultivars
  • To evaluate field-scale sowing of Festulolium and Festulolium/clover mixtures at North Wyke on water and nutrient run-off measurements over seasons and years
  • To study the root development of the new varieties of drought resistance ryegrass and white clover in the IBERS phenomics facility, with genes for root growth identified and transferred into cultivars



It is a five year project funded by BBSRC, grass and water companies, and levy boards. It will exploit the resources at IBERS and North Wyke to develop and test interesting grass and clover varieties.