A new emphasis on root traits for perennial grass and legume varieties with environmental and ecological benefits

Type Article
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)26-39
Number of pages14
JournalFood and Energy Security
Volume5
Issue number1
Early online date28 Jan 2016
DOI
Publication statusPublished - 17 Feb 2016
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Abstract

Grasslands cover a significant proportion of the agricultural land within the UK and across the EU, providing a relatively cheap source of feed for ruminants and supporting the production of meat, wool and milk from grazing animals. Delivering efficient animal production from grassland systems has traditionally been the primary focus of grassland-based research. But there is increasing recognition of the ecological and environmental benefits of these grassland systems and the importance of the interaction between their component plants and a host of other biological organisms in the soil and in adjoining habitats. Many of the ecological and environmental benefits provided by grasslands emanate from the interactions between the roots of plant species and the soil in which they grow. We review current knowledge on the role of grassland ecosystems in delivering ecological and environmental benefits. We will consider how improved grassland can deliver these benefits, and the potential opportunities for plant breeding to improve specific traits that will enhance these benefits whilst maintaining forage production for livestock consumption. Opportunities for exploiting new plant breeding approaches, including high throughput phenotyping, and for introducing traits from closely related species are discussed.

Keywords

  • ecology, environment, grasslands, phenotyping, plant breeding, roots