Introgression as a route to improved drought tolerance in white clover (Trifolium repens L.)

Athole H. Marshall, C. Rascle, Michael T. Abberton, Terry P. T. Michaelson-Yeates, Ian Rhodes

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Backcross hybrids between the important forage legume white clover Trifolium repens, which is stoloniferous, and the related rhizomatous species T. ambiguum have been produced using T. repens as the recurrent parent. The drought tolerance of parents and two generations of backcross plants, possessing both stolons and rhizomes, was studied in deep soil bins in a glasshouse both as monocultures and in mixtures with perennial ryegrass. Soil moisture content, leaf relative water content, and leaf water potential were measured on plants subjected to drought cycles of 4 weeks duration and those watered normally and maintained at field capacity. Six cycles of drought, carried out over 2 years, showed that T. ambiguum and the first and second generation backcross hybrids maintained a greater leaf relative water content and higher leaf water potential than T. repens at comparable levels of soil moisture. The dry matter yield of T. repens was significantly reduced over each drought cycle compared to the watered treatments, while the yield of T. ambiguum increased over the 4-week cycle in both treatments. The yield of the backcross generations was intermediate between those of the two parental species. The implications of these results for white clover germplasm improvement programmes are discussed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)11-18
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Agronomy and Crop Science
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 21 Dec 2001


  • backcross
  • drought
  • interspecific hybrids
  • Trifolium ambiguum
  • Trifolium repens


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