DATA and information on ryegrass varieties is not hard to find.
Most seed companies run their own trials and release their figures year to year.
However, as farmers are all too aware, these companies have vested interests in the information they are providing, and each trial is undertaken under variable conditions.
This makes it very hard to compare data across brands and species.
The Forage Value Index (FVI) tool enables farmers to select ryegrass cultivars that will deliver the best possible pasture based on their location, farming system and forage needs.
The index, launched in 2017, was primarily focussed on perennial rye species, until earlier this year where the annual and Italian indexes were launched.
The project has been a collaborative effort between Dairy Australia, Agriculture Victoria, Australian Seed Federation, Meat and Livestock Australia, and DairyNZ.
The FVI is calculated by multiplying the Performance Value of each cultivar (i.e. total kilograms dry matter produced per hectare per season) and by its Economic Value (i.e. the estimated value of this extra production per season).
Performance Values (PV) are determined by industry assessed trial data.
Economic Values (EV) are determined by economic analysis of ‘case study’ farms in four different dairying regions in south-east Australia.
The PV is expressed as a percentage change relative to a reference variety of grass, being Victorian ryegrass for the perennial table, Tetila for the annual and Crusader for Italian.
For example, it is comparing how each performs in relation to the reference variety.
The FVI for each cultivar is expressed as a colour, whereby those cultivars with the same colour are not significantly different to each other.
The green colour indicates those cultivars that have performed the best in each region and have the most potential to contribute to operating profit.
FVI ratings are calculated annually using independent industry variety trial data.
To be included in the FVI database, each cultivar must have data from at least three three-year trials that have been conducted using strict industry protocols.
Additional trial data, regional performance data, new cultivars, new traits and other pasture and forage species will be added over time.
Only cultivars listed in the Australian Seed Federation Pasture Seed Database and confirmed as a “variety” are used in the FVI.
Dairy Australia’s farm profit and capability manager, Peter Johnson said the index ranked the performance of over 20 of Australia’s most popular perennial ryegrass cultivars, relative to typical climatic conditions across the country’s south-eastern dairy regions.
“Dairy Australia recognises that the year ahead will be challenging for dairy farmers, with high feed and water prices affecting farm profitability for many,” he said.
“By giving farmers the tools to put a really strong evidence base behind their decisions, the FVI can make a real difference to farm profitability.”
Australian dairy farmers invest about $80 million each year on renovating pastures with perennial ryegrass cultivars.
“Before the FVI, there was very little independently-tested information on the traits and capabilities of these existing cultivars, so farmers tended to stick with what they knew,” Mr Johnson said.
“Now they have an accurate and reliable way to assess the economic value of individual cultivars - it’s a lot easier for farmers to make the decision to invest in pasture renovation and increase their productivity and profitability.”
Which varieties suit Western Victoria?
Pinnacle, marketed by AGF Seeds, come out on top of the annual ryegrass index, achieving the top score and a green colour ranking as the cultivar with the most potential to contribute to operating profit in south-west Victoria.
Its score of 288 in south-west Victoria was 25 points ahead of its nearest rival, which was SF Speedy1.
The Italian index was somewhat of a surprise, with several popular and well used varieties such as Knight coming out well below Cruisader as the reference variety.
Coming out on top of the leader board is a variety known as Tempo, with a score of 122, sold by Barenbrug.
Once again BaseAR37, retailed by PGG Wrightson Seeds, dominated the perennial index, maintaining top of the ladder for south-west Victoria.
Base is a popular late heading tetraploid grass, with a ranking of 237, ahead of second comer Bealey with a ranking of 206.
Proof is in the pudding with both of these grasses proving successful for many growers across the region.