Drought tolerance and regrowth capacity revealed in the Festuca-Lolium complex

Černoch, V., Kopecký, D.
Biologia Plantarum


The climate change appears to have accelerated in recent years, and more changes are envisaged in the near future. With this in mind, breeders should consider the choices of materials to be used in breeding for the future to potentially mitigate the impacts of changes. In forage grasses, a special attention has to be paid to drought and heat tolerance. Here, in a screening trial of numerous accessions, we investigated drought tolerance and after-drought recovery rates among the species of the Festuca-Lolium complex, including cultivars and breeding materials as well as various ecotypes of wild species. Experimental trials were done using rainout shelters during three successive years 2017 - 2019. The most drought tolerant genotypes belonged to the species F. glaucescens and F. mairei, followed by F. atlantigena, F. arundinacea, and some genotypes of F. pratensis. These genotypes should be considered as suitable candidates for intergeneric hybridization with L. multiflorum and L. perenne. Our test shows that Festulolium krasanii (L. multiflorum × F. arundinacea) is a good candidate to replace pure tall fescue (F. arundinacea) stands. It has the same or similar drought tolerance and drought recovery as tall fescue and at least some cultivars are known for their high feeding value, unlike tall fescue itself. A large variability for drought tolerance and recovery rates in Fl. braunii (the L. multiflorum × F. pratensis hybrid) and Fl. loliaceum (the L. perenne × F. pratensis hybrid) permit selection of genotypes that can outperform the original L. multiflorum and L. perenne.