Happy partners work wonders.
What if you could lift your...
Happy partners work wonders.
What if you could lift your lambing percentage or milk production by 8% in one go, simply by altering one piece of your system to make the whole thing function better?
No change to ewe or cow numbers; no extra inputs; everything else stays the same, but from one year to the next – boom – performance takes off.
Now, in place of ewes or cows, think ryegrass. Is there really one thing we could alter that would make such a big difference? Turns out, the answer is yes!
Welcome to the amazing world of ryegrass endophytes, where a great marriage between microscopic fungi and their host plant can work wonders. You just need time, and patience, to make sure they’re right for each other.
Small, but mighty
For organisms so tiny they’re invisible to the naked eye, endophytes are crazy powerful. Hidden inside your ryegrass plants, they evolved as nature’s insect repellent, keeping pesky predators at bay and helping grass persist and perform.
All well and good, until scientists discovered the original wild ryegrass endophyte could sicken animals. So began the great challenge that continues to this day – finding better endophytes for animals, without losing that natural pest protection.
New Zealand leads the world in this research. It’s complex, exciting and still unfolding. For us here at Barenbrug, it’s an obsession.
For 35 years, we’ve worked to discover new endophytes; test them for insect protection and animal health; match them up with the right ryegrass and make them available to help you get the most out of your pastures.
Are we there yet?
There’s no rushing endophyte research and development. It’s painfully slow, and our journey so far has featured many more dead-ends, frustrations and failures than successes.
So why do we keep trying? Because when a great endophyte gels with a great ryegrass, the results are eye-popping.
Case in point – pairing our newest endophyte NEA12 with Shogun hybrid ryegrass created a super-charged pasture that grows 8% more than Shogun with its original endophyte NEA. That’s 8% more feed from a hybrid that was already in a league of its own.
On average, genetic gain in ryegrass advances at about 1% a year. So getting the right marriage between endophyte and ryegrass in this case gave the same gain as eight years of plant breeding, in one hit!
Picture a tripod. One leg is the ryegrass itself. The second is the endophyte. The third is the way they work as a team. One weak leg, and Houston, we have a problem.
Of all the things we’ve learned in recent years of endophyte research, this is the most important. You can have a great ryegrass, and a great endophyte. But simply mashing them together in itself does not guarantee a great result (sometimes the opposite!)
You must first make sure they get along. Their relationship is live, and dynamic, like a marriage. The same endophyte can pair up beautifully with one ryegrass, but rub another completely the wrong way.
The only way to find compatibility is to mix and match, then test different combinations, over multiple years and locations.
Let’s flip the script
Shogun NEA12 is one example where the two partners hit it off straight away, forming a dream team that helps your farm thrive.
Not all stories end so happily! Sometimes, the endophyte and the ryegrass end up fighting instead.
One endophyte we discovered even turned out to be parasitic. It slashed the growth of its host ryegrass, weakened plant health and made it prone to disease. Bad dynamics all round, and a partnership we do not want on farm.
Some endophytes seem to do nothing. Others decrease winter growth. True champions are rare, and finding them is a massive numbers game.
Since releasing our first endophyte in 1999, we have identified, isolated and genotyped over 400 individual endophytes! Only a handful have proved worthy of release, creating powerful synergies with Barenbrug ryegrasses.
NEA12 is our first endophyte producing janthitrems. These are the alkaloid compounds released through the ryegrass to deter certain insects from having a good feed.
In this case, black beetle and root aphid in particular will pack their bags and head out the gate. We’re testing NEA12’s effect on other insects, too, and believe it will discourage Argentine stem weevil and porina as well.
Endophytes are never released without also being tested for animal safety, and NEA12 is no exception. Trials have confirmed that overall, it provides a high level of animal performance.
We believe it is safe from ryegrass staggers for dairy cows and cattle. For sheep, NEA12 has significantly lower risk of causing staggers than Standard endophyte, but staggers could still occur on occasion. Deer and horses should not graze NEA12.
More is better
Sticking to just one endophyte would be so much simpler. But as we continue mixing, matching and observing different endophyte/ryegrass marriages, it becomes increasingly obvious that one is simply not enough to get the best out of every pasture.
Here’s another good example: Forge hybrid ryegrass with NEA endophyte is a very happy marriage, so that’s why Forge was released with that particular endophyte.
However, when Forge was tested with NEA12, the new endophyte that has super-charged Shogun, it was not such a good marriage. In fact, Forge NEA12 yielded less than Forge NEA.
In all, we now offer six endophytes – NEA, NEA2, NEA4, AR1, AR37 and NEA12. Yes, it makes things complex! But you win, because having such a wide range to work with from gives us a huge advantage in finding those dream teams that keep your farm thriving.
Shogun NEA12 will be available this autumn. But you don’t have to wait until then to make positive changes with your pasture.
We’re always available to help get the best out of your system. Just hop online to book your free personal Pasture Health Check today at www.barenbrug.co.nz