In response to the increasing frequency and intensity of rainfall events in the UK, this project will determine whether soils can be modified by perennial grassland species to reduce incidents of flooding and drought whilst maintaining agronomic productivity and quality. It builds on the outcomes of the BBSRC ‘SuperGraSS’ project1 which showed that a Festulolium (ryegrass/fescue species) hybrid with modified root architecture had potential for flood control. This new project will build on that preliminary data and exploit the vast genetic variation available within forage species to modify root dynamics to mitigate the effects of excess or deficient rainwater supply. The multifunctional potential of perennial grasslands to deliver both economic and environmental benefits will be quantified using the IBERS National Plant Phenomics Centre (NPPC) and Rothamsted Research North Wyke Farm Platform (NWFP), as well as commercial farms using the expertise of the academic and industrial partners.
· investigating the ontogeny and expression of root phenotype in selected grasses and clovers both independently and in combination for improved soil hydrology
· improving drought resistance and water use efficiency in clovers and grasses
· monitoring on-farmagronomic performance and forage quality
This is a 5 year project that began in April 2014 and is being undertaken and co-ordinated by IBERS, Aberystwyth University with input from North Wyke, Rothamsted Research. There are a number of co-funders involved in the project including, HCC, AHDB, Germinal Holdings, British Grassland Society, Dairy Crest and Mole Valley Farmers. Waitrose Ltd is also involved in the project and the commercial farms will be recruited from their producers.