Grassland based forage production is the cornerstone of agriculture in Northern Norway. It is important for the economy and it is expected to use local feed resources for the production of milk and meat. Achieving this goal requires higher and more stable yields of high quality forage over years. Timothy is the most important forage species in Norway, especially in the north. The predicted climate change will lead to higher and more variable precipitation patterns. These changes are expected to be more rapid in the north. Development of timothy cultivars that are adapted is crucial for a sustainable forage production in the north. Breeding of new cultivars takes long time with traditional methods – up to 20 years. By using machine-learning methods and genomic selection, it is possible to combine climate and soil data with phenotype and genomic data to predict genomic breeding values. Production of commercial seeds of timothy cultivars bred for Northern Norway is challenging since the production is located in the South Eastern part of Norway. This can lead to risks of genetic shifts in the cultivars and thus change in key traits that are important in the north, e.g. winter survival. Studies of genetic shifts during seed multiplication are limited. In this project, we will study winter survival, estimated as freezing and ice-encasement tolerance in different seed generations of northern timothy cultivars and breeding populations. This information will be combined with molecular marker data for identification of genome regions in timothy associated in genetic regulation of these traits. In addition, we will study potential genetic shifts in seed generations of different age of the northern timothy cultivars ‘Engmo and ‘Noreng’. Historical phenotypic data from multi-location-year yield trials will be combined with climate, soil, and genomic data using advanced machine learning models to develop genomic prediction models for developing of adapted cultivars in the north.
Project leader: Odd Arne Rognli
Institution: NORGES MILJØ- OG BIOVITENSKAPELIGE UNIVERSITET (NMBU)