It’s been 30 years since Barenbrug Agriseeds became the first private company in the southern hemisphere to start researching and developing novel ryegrass endophytes.
Every year, the team there learns more about the fascinating, complex relationship between ryegrass, and its natural fungus.
“Our aim has always been to get the best out of endophyte in terms of animal health, while maintaining strong control across a range of insect pests,” says upper South Island area manager Craig Weir. “This is a balancing act, which we believe we have successfully achieved.”
If you look at how different endophytes stack up in each of these categories, it becomes clear that NEA endophytes from Barenbrug Agriseeds allow farmers to do the best by their livestock at the same time as protecting their pastures.
AR1 endophyte, for example, has very good animal performance and health. But it is weak against black beetle and root aphid.
AR37 endophyte has good to very good control of key pests. However, the chemicals it produces are not always animal friendly. It is not suitable for deer or horses, and can cause severe staggers in sheep and lambs.
“NEA endophytes bridge the gap,” Craig says. “Because they pose very little risk of ryegrass staggers in sheep, beef cattle and dairy cows, they have an outstanding animal safety record. This comes with good control of key pests to support pasture persistence.
“We believe they provide the best combination of animal health and insect control that you can buy.”
NEA is a unique group of endophytes which Barenbrug Agriseeds first discovered in 1991. The research behind this breakthrough began in 1987, however, and continues today.
Collectively, the NEA family now accounts for much of the total New Zealand ryegrass endophyte market.
NEA2 endophyte was first launched to farmers in Tolosa perennial ryegrass in 2001, and is now available in Trojan and Rohan.
NEA comes in Shogun hybrid ryegrass and Agriseeds’ newest endophyte NEA4 is available in tetraploid perennial Viscount.
Craig Weir says all the NEA endophytes available have been put through a lengthy NZ trial programme to ensure they perform the way the company says they will, both in terms of animal safety and insect resistance.
That includes animal safety grazing trials, regional persistence trials, insect bioassays and alkaloid analysis. “These trials are on-going as we develop new ryegrass/endophyte combinations for the future.”
Since 2006, Barenbrug Agriseeds has partnered on endophyte discovery with AgriBio, a world-leading agricultural bioscience R&D operation in Australia.
This work has led to molecular identification of more than 400 potential new endophytes, the best of which enter the company’s NZ pasture development programme.
Endophytes are essential for pasture persistence on NZ farms. They are fungi that have evolved to live in harmony with ryegrass, producing natural compounds which protect their host plants from pests like Argentine stem weevil and black beetle.