Trials & Research

DLF Research and Development Program

1. Global Research

DLF have over 125 years of experience within plant breeding, and the company has given its name to some of the very best grass and clover varieties on the market and continue to do so today by bringing new varieties like Nifty to the Irish market in 2016. Our research is done within an international network of breeding stations and research sites, ensuring that our varieties are tested under different climatic conditions and forms of use.

Today breeders select material for a new variety based on different trial data that has been collected during the growing season. Typically, only the top 5-10% are selected for further breeding while the rest is discarded. The same selection criteria are applied in the second year on the next generation and so forth until the improvements that will qualify the variety for national listing has been obtained. DLF is now leading with a new technological development, which may lift the trait values to unseen heights.

The technology, called “Genome Wide Selection” (GWS), bases itself on the genetic potential, which is hidden in the plant genome. GWS selects breeding material on the basis of the plants DNA code instead of their trial data alone. One of the current limitations with traditional breeding techniques lies in the ability to select for more traits simultaneously. Today the development of a new variety with superior yield requires at least 500 field plots. If the new variety is also going to be superior in disease resistance the breeding process requires 500 x 500 (= 25,000) field plots. This is an impossible task, which in practice means that you can select for one trait (typically yield) and then only hope to find variation for other traits in your selected material. GWS can overcome these limitations because it can dissect, which part of the genome controls different traits. This technology has been implemented in cattle breeding with great success and the best breeding bulls are now selected even before one year of age based on genetic breeding value. Prior to GWS, data on these animals and their offspring was collected for 5-6 years before it could be concluded, which bull had the greatest potential.

2. Grass

Variety Trials: DLF established its first grass trials in Ireland in the autumn of 2015. Harvesting of the 800 trial plots will commence in the spring of 2016. Grass varieties are harvested for 2 years after sowing using the “General Purpose” protocol as defined by the Department of Agriculture recommended list which is one spring grazing cut followed by two silage cuts and then three grazing cuts in the first year.

In the second year we implement the simulated grazing protocol which is an 8-10 cut system taken at periods corresponding to current commercial practice. We are committed to delivering the best grass varieties for farmers in Ireland and preparation has already started for the 2016 sowing in which another 800 plots will be established.

Mixture Trials: There is no variety that ticks every box; optimal spring growth, summer and autumn growth, combined with high digestibility and ground cover scores. That is why our research team designs mixtures based on individual variety performance and trial data from the actual mixture. We pride ourselves on mixture formulation which we are trialling under Irish conditions to ensure productivity as promised from our brands.

3. Maize: 

DLF trials in excess of 80 varieties of maize for their suitability to the Irish market every year. This selection process has evolved over the years into a two site trial. As maize is very sensitive to heat units, altitude and daylight hours we test all new material across two geographical sites each year; Favourable and less favourable.

The favourable site is a warm south east facing site 30m above sea level while the less favourable site is north west facing 130m above sea level and a colder field in general. As the Department of Agriculture test varieties for the recommended list across a number of sites this is a more robust way to select varieties for the Recommended List. 

4. Beet: 

We redesigned our beet trials in 2014 where by all plots are taken to harvest and subsamples are tested for dry matter. All our beet trials are currently conducted in Carlow. This year we have both a replicated plot trial and large ½ acre strip trial. Both sugar and fodder beet varieties are being tested.

Our replicated beet trial consists of 12 varieties in three replications and the ½ acre strip trial has 20 varieties. We have expanded our portfolio of beet considerably in the last three years and will have 10 varieties available to the market in 2016 many of which are new varieties.

5. Forage Brassicas: 

We have an extensive portfolio of kales, forage rapes, swedes and stubble turnips which are all included in our research farm for viewing, all of which have detailed variety and agronomy information within our downloadable brochures.