Cocksfoot breeding for the emerging sector of by product biorefining

  • Christina Fay Cox

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


A recurrent selective breeding process was developed to assess the suitability and potential of Dactylis glomerata L. (Cocksfoot) for the biorefining of phenolic compounds. Evaluation of traits across wild or synthetic accessions and commercial varieties entered into both replicated and randomised spaced plant and yield plot trials, allowed for a selective half-sib polycross for both the initial and first generation to be performed. Test traits included ploidy level, susceptibility to two fungal pathogens, biomass quality, dry matter yield, winter hardiness, date of emergence of inflorescences and analysis of the phenolic profile of the species. Winter hardiness, emergence of inflorescences and incidence of Mastigosporium sp. and Puccinia striiformis were assessed through spaced plant observations, ploidy level via chromosome counts and flow cytometry, biomass quality through NIRS, dry matter yield by weights of plot samples and phenolic profile by GC-MS.

Differences between initial generations revealed that improvement of pathogen resistance could be achieved through selective breeding, although testing over further generations would be needed to greater assess other traits. Dry matter yield was greater than Lolium perenne L. over a spring-autumn cutting regime, with digestibility remaining consistent across these seasons. Water-soluble carbohydrates within leaf tissues decreased between spring and autumn, whilst protein contents increased, indicating protein could make a suitable additional biorefining product. Phenolic profile was not unique to accessions, nor greatly influenced by fluctuations in dry matter yield, instead being greater affected by season. Estimated income from the biorefining of phenolic compounds per hectare across a spring-autumn monthly cutting regime could make a significant contribution to annual livestock income in Wales, with flavonoid compounds offering the greatest potential.
Date of Award2021
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Aberystwyth University
SponsorsKnowledge Economy Skills Scholarships
SupervisorAna Winters (Supervisor) & Sarah Palmer (Supervisor)

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