Genetics and molecular breeding in Lolium/Festuca grass species complex

Toshihiko Yamada, John W. Forster, Michael W. Humphreys, Tadashi Takamizo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne) and Italian ryegrass (L. multiflorum) are regarded as ideal grass species for use as animal forage in temperate grassland agriculture. Ryegrasses establish and grow quickly and provide dense swards of highly nutritious and easily digestible forage that can be turned into healthy meat and animal products for human consumption. However, their use is restricted as they lack persistency, especially in marginal areas and locations that are subject to summer and winter stresses and drought stress. Close relative species from within genus Festuca are much better adapted to such abiotic stresses but, by contrast, do not compare well in animal forage provision to Lolium species as they show poor establishment and comparatively lower quality characteristics. Lolium and Festuca species hybridize naturally and exhibit high frequencies of gene exchange in the hybrid condition. Intergeneric hybrids (Festulolium) between Lolium and Festuca species are being used to broaden the gene pool and to provide the plant breeder with options to combine high quality traits with broad adaptations to a range of environmental constraints. Festulolium varieties have promise as novel grasses with high forage quality and resistance to environmental stress and can thereby improve grassland productivity, persistency and benefit incomes. Recent progress on Festulolium breeding programs is described here. Conventional forage grass breeding programs rely on basis observable phenotypes using the natural genetic variation found between and within varieties or ecotypes. Genetic improvement of forage grasses by conventional breeding programs is very slow due to the obligate outbreeding and perennial nature of grasses. Advances in genomics and gene manipulation can complement and enhance conventional plant breeding programs. Many studies concerning the implementation of DNA markers, high-throughout gene discovery, genome-wide gene expression analysis and gene manipulation are currently being conducted for forage grasses. Recent progress on molecular and genomic research activity in the genus Lolium and Festuca is reviewed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)89-106
Number of pages18
JournalGrassland Science
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 01 Jun 2005


  • comparative genomics
  • DNA marker
  • festuca
  • festulolium
  • functional genomics
  • gene cloning
  • lolium
  • QTL
  • analysis
  • transgenics


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