Festulolium, a century of research and breeding and its increased relevance in meeting the requirements for multifunctional grassland agriculture

M. W. Humphreys*, Z. Zwierzykowski

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

15 Citations (SciVal)
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Festulolium are grasses formed through interspecific hybridisation of ryegrass (Lolium) and fescue (Festuca) species. The Lolium-Festuca genome complex represents a vast array of heterogeneous and largely outbreeding grass species that have evolved, diverged, and adapted, allowing their world-wide colonisation of temperate grasslands. While strategies for grass improvement have focused primarily on intraspecific breeding and, in particular, on the agronomically desirable species Lolium perenne and Lolium multiflorum, a growing interest has emerged in interspecific hybrids as alternatives. The principal driver has been the increased appreciation of the capability of wide hybridisation to extend phenotypic variation beyond the ranges available within a single species. Lolium and Festuca species share complementary and desirable traits, and the prime aim in Festulolium (Festuca × Lolium) cultivar development has been to combine the agronomic performance of Lolium and the stress resistance of Festuca species. Advances in Festulolium development are timely, and support strategies aimed at delivering a more sustainable future for livestock agriculture, with grass cultivars that are persistent and productive. Festulolium hybrids occur naturally, including examples that demonstrate extreme heterosis with adaptations sufficient to sustain growth in harsh conditions. However, they are largely sterile and their perpetuity depends mainly on vegetative propagation. Synthetic Festulolium hybrids suitable for plant breeding require genome stability and fertility, sufficient for a cost-effective seed production. To this end, suitable amphiploid and introgression-breeding approaches have been developed. Herein, we provide detailed selected highlights in the research and breeding of Festulolium. In addition, recognising the multifunctional properties of grasslands and the development of enabling technologies that permit their study, we review additional benefits likely to accrue from Festulolium that may mitigate climate change effects and provide valuable ecosystem services.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)578-590
Number of pages13
JournalBiologia Plantarum
Publication statusPublished - 31 Aug 2020


  • Amphiploidy
  • Genome stability
  • Introgression
  • Resitance to harsh conditions


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