High digestible grass and a visit from the Minister

DLF has teamed-up with Aarhus University in Denmark to make the future high digestible forage grasses.

In addition to dry matter yield, the digestibility is one of the most important breeding goals of forage grasses. This is due to a very clear correlation between digestibility and milk and meat production.

Studies have shown that an increase by 1% in digestibility tops the milk production by a quarter of a litre per day. The digestibility tells something about how easily grass is decomposed in the cow's stomach. The grass is absolutely necessary for the cow in order to maintain a healthy stomach, and the easier the grass can be degraded, the more energy is available for the milk or meat production. If the grass is easily digestible, there will be less burping and farting, and this is a gain from a climate point of view.

The cow burps and farts methane, which is 24 times more harmful than carbon dioxide. If we can improve the digestibility by 1%, correspondingly we can be reduce methane emissions by 1-1.5%. at EU level, an improvement in digestibility of 10% will be equivalent to a methane reduction corresponding to 1 million tons of carbon dioxide per year.

There are excellent perspectives for improving grass digestibility, and scientists at DLF and Aarhus University is working hard to realise the potential benefits. To achieve the objectives, DLF and Aarhus University are funded by GUDP (Green Development and Demonstration Projects), which belongs to the Danish Ministry of Food. In the Ministry they are also happy about the prospects, and already in September the Danish Minister of Environment and Food, Mr Esben Lunde Larsen, paid the project a visit.

The Minister was presented to the "machine" in the project, Genomic Wide Selection (GWS). GWS is a technology that in future will make it possible to choose the best digestible grass from a simple DNA test. In this way we hope to develop grasses faster than it is possible today.

The project is called "Green Select" and also includes Tystofte Foundation, among others to test new grass varieties for improved nitrogen utilisation. The project started in 2015 and runs until the end of 2018.