Interspecific hybrids between white clover (Trifolium repens L.) and Caucasian clover (Trifolium ambiguum M. Bieb.) have been developed to introgress the rhizomatous growth habit into white clover, to increase persistence and drought tolerance. The forage quality of T. repens, T. ambiguum and the backcross 1 (BC1) and backcross 2 (BC2) hybrids and companion grass, when grown in mixtures with an intermediate perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne L.) under a cutting-only management, was measured. In vitro dry-matter digestibility (DMD), water-soluble carbohydrate (WSC) and crude protein (CP) concentrations of the legume and grass fractions were measured throughout the growing season over three harvest years. Trifolium repens had a lower WSC but a higher CP concentration than the perennial ryegrass companion in all harvest years and at all cuts. The legume fractions from the BC1 and BC2 hybrid plots had a higher WSC and a lower CP concentration but an in vitro DMD value comparable with white clover throughout the growing season and in each harvest year. The grass fractions from the mixtures with the backcross hybrids had a higher WSC and a lower CP concentration than the grass fraction from the T. repens plots, in all harvest years and throughout the growing season. No difference in in vitro DMD between parental species and backcross hybrids was observed. The implications of these results for the development of these hybrids and animal performance are discussed.
- Trifolium repens L, Trifolium ambiguum M. Bieb., interspecific hybrids, cutting, forage quality