The dry matter (DM) production of Trifolium repens, T. ambiguum and the backcross 1 (BC1) and backcross 2 (BC2) hybrids with T. repens as the recurrent parent were compared in mixtures with an intermediate heading variety of perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne L.) under a cutting-only management over 3 harvest years. Plots of parental legume species and backcross hybrids were established from small plantlets and oversown with the companion grass. In the first harvest year, the DM yield of clover in T. repens plots was greater than that in the BC2 plots and both greater than in the BC1 plots, whilst in the second and third harvest years differences between the DM yield of clover in the T. repens and the BC1 and BC2 hybrid plots were small. Similar results were obtained for the DM yield of total herbage. There were also differences in seasonal growth in the first harvest year, when yield of clover in T. repens plots was greater than in the BC1 and BC2 hybrid plots at early cuts but not at later cuts. Few differences in seasonal growth were observed between parental species and hybrids in subsequent harvest years. Comparison of above- and below-ground biomass showed more DM in roots and rhizome of clover in the backcrosses than in the T. repens plots in the second harvest year but differences were less evident in the third harvest year. The clover in the backcross hybrid plots also had fewer stolon growing points per quadrat than the T. repens plots, but the BC2 had more than the BC1 plots. The exploitation of these hybrids in breeding programmes as a strategy to improve the persistence and drought tolerance of white clover is discussed and implications for forage production considered.
- Trifolium repens L., Trifolium ambiguum M. Bieb, interspecific hybrids, cutting, forage production