It all started with a project supported by GUDP in 2010, when DLF and scientists at Aarhus University (AU) picked up the challenge to implement genomic selection in grass breeding. Although much was already known from cattle research, there were no statistical methods nor any DNA profile technology ready for grasses, which in contrast to cattle, are bred as families.
The starting point was a seed catalogue representing an entire decade of breeding activities. From this resource, almost 1800 ryegrass families were chosen, which all had historic field data, and from which DNA could be extracted in order to obtain a DNA marker recipe for each family.
At the same time DLF started trialing all the families again and to add a number of extra traits for future selections. It was an immense task, involving thousands of extra yield plots, rust scorings, and chemical analyses for fiber- and sugar content. Fortunately, the outcome turned out to be worth all the effort, and as of 2015, GS became a standard procedure in forage ryegrass breeding at DLF.
For several decades, annual breeding gains in dry matter yield have remained constant around 0.2%. With GS, it is expected that this gain will more than double. For other traits, it may be even higher as selection pressure historically have been highest on yield. At the same time genomic selection will shorten the development time for new varieties with several years.