From Japan Gets New Life in Southern Plains
By Luis Pons
March 17, 2003
During the 1980s, Japanese research
aimed at cultivating early forage grasses that could be rotated with rice
resulted in Shiwasuaoba, a new ryegrass. When this cultivar, developed at the
Yamaguchi Experimental Research Station in Yamaguchi, Japan, failed to meet
expectations of its creators, it was nearly shelved.
However, a three-year research agreement between the Grassland Farming and
Forage Seed Association in Tochigi, Japan, and the
Agricultural Research Service has
allowed ARS scientists to give the ryegrass new life in America's Southern
Plains. ARS scientists at the Grazing Lands
Research Laboratory in El Reno, Okla., and the
South Central Agricultural Research
Laboratory in Lane, Okla., learned of this unique ryegrass through
interactions with the Forage Seed Panel of the United States-Japanese
Cooperative Program in National Resources.
Shiwasuaoba, whose name means "December flower" in Japanese, is a
leafy, annual ryegrass that produces early spring yields comparable to those of
other ryegrass cultivars. What makes it unique is that it matures extremely
early, allowing its use for livestock grazing or haying up to three weeks
sooner than annual ryegrass cultivars currently in use. As a result, farmers
have use of a cool-season forage grass that can be quickly rotated with no-till
summer crops such as vegetables and melons.
"Shiwa," as the cultivar is called by ARS researchers, was
subjected to three years of forage performance evaluations under the
supervision of plant geneticist Bryan Kindiger at El Reno and plant
physiologist Vincent Russo at Lane. Additional evaluations are under way to
identify its optimal agronomic conditions and potential rotation crops that
would complement it.
Japanese researchers have applied for U.S. Plant Variety Protection for
Shiwasuaoba. If it is approved, it will mark the first time Japan has released
a forage grass in the United States. The Japanese Grassland Farming and Forage
Seed Association maintains and licenses certified seed of the ryegrass.
ARS is the chief scientific research agency of the
U.S. Department of Agriculture.