The pentaploid hybrid of Lolium multiflorum and Festuca arundinacea (2n = 5x = 35) combines the high growth rate of L. multiforum with the drought resistance and freezing-tolerance of F. arundinacea. Unfortunately, it also displays the deleterious traits associated with Festuca, namely those associated with high leaf fibre content giving rise to poor palatability and digestibility. To access different combinations of these characters, anther cultures were initiated and regenerated into single embryo derived plants. The anther culture method was very productive since out of a total of 2349 androgenic plants derived from the same parent plant, 57% were green plantlets, although only 507 (22%) subsequently established into plants following transfer to soil. Chromosome counts of randomly selected lines showed that plants with euploid chromosome numbers (14, 21, and 28) would appear to have selective advantage during regeneration. There was wide variation between mature androgenic plants grown under field conditions in plant height, leaf length, leaf width, tiller number and herbage dry matter. The variation between genotypes in response to drought stress was assessed by placing replicate clones under rain-out shelters or under irrigated control conditions in the field. Herbage dry matter under drought was higher in a number of androgenic lines than either parents, but not higher than the pentaploid hybrid. Androgenesis was shown to be a highly effective procedure to expose diverse phenotypic variation all derived from the same Lolium × Festuca hybrid genotype.
- Anther culture, drought tolerance, Festuca arundinacea, Lolium multiflorum, pentaploid hybrid