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New Trefoils Ready for Forage Breeders

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Read: more about trefoils in Agricultural Research.

New Trefoils Ready for Forage Breeders

By Kathryn Barry Stelljes
April 5, 2000

Livestock and wildlife should someday benefit from improved forages, thanks to two new lines of narrowleaf and big trefoil plants released by Agricultural Research Service scientists.

Unlike alfalfa, trefoil doesn’t cause bloating in animals. Between the two types of trefoil, many harsh growing conditions such as dry, saline or flooded soils can be tolerated. Because trefoils are legumes, they fix nitrogen into the soil for later use by grasses and forbs. This can reduce the need for fertilizer.

ARS agronomist Jeffrey Steiner and geneticist Paul Beuselinck developed the new trefoils to help breeders improve forage quality on pastureland. Birdsfoot trefoil, a related species, has become popular during the past few decades, but big trefoil and narrowleaf trefoil have not been readily available.

Both of the new releases--ARS-1207 narrowleaf trefoil and ARS-1221 big trefoil--combine the characteristics of dozens of different genetic populations collected from around the world. That way, breeders can use them to evaluate all available characteristics for each species without individually testing dozens of different plants.

Researchers and breeders can obtain small amounts of seed from Steiner.

An article describing this work appears in the April issue of Agricultural Research, ARS' monthly magazine.

ARS is the chief research agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Scientific contacts: Jeffrey Steiner, ARS Forage Seed and Cereal Research Unit, Corvallis, Ore., phone (541) 750-8734, fax (541) 750-8750,; Paul Beuselinck, ARS Plant Genetics Research Unit, Columbia, Mo., phone (573) 882-6406, fax (573) 882-1467,

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