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Flowering responses of serradella (Ornithopus spp.) and subterranean clover (Trifolium subterraneum L.) to vernalisation and photoperiod and their role in maturity type determination and flowering date stability

journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-21, 17:19 authored by Laura GowardLaura Goward, Haling, RE, Rowan SmithRowan Smith, Beth PenroseBeth Penrose, Simpson, RJ

Context: Serradellas (Ornithopus spp.) are promising alternative annual legumes to subterranean clover (Trifolium subterraneum L.), for permanent, temperate pastures. However, many cultivars exhibit unstable flowering dates across years. This is a risk for seed production and persistence.

Aim:This study assessed howvernalisation and photoperiod cues determine maturity type and flowering date stability among serradella cultivars. Methods First flower appearance was recorded for early and late maturing cultivars of yellow serradella (Ornithopus compressus L.), French serradella (Ornithopus sativus Brot.) and subterranean clover after exposure to six vernalisation treatments (0, 1, 3, 5, 7 or 9 weeks at 5°C) with subsequent growth under four photoperiods (8, 12, 16 or 20 h).

Key results:Intrinsic earliness’ differed by only zero to three nodes for cultivars within species, indicating that maturity type was determined primarily by a cultivar’s responses to vernalisation and photoperiod. An interaction between these responses was observed, with a precipitous decline in the requirement for vernalisation when photoperiods exceeded 12 h. Many cultivars also displayed a persistent component to their vernalisation response, whereby long photoperiods (20 h) did not completely negate the response to vernalisation.

Conclusions: Later maturity was associated particularly with need for long exposure to the vernalisation treatment to minimise the duration from sowing to first flower appearance. Stable flowering is more likely when a cultivar has components of its vernalisation requirement that are not satisfied before autumn ends to prevent premature flowering, and a photoperiod response in spring that overrides any unmet vernalisation requirement. Implications Persistence by serradella cultivars requires selection for suitable responsiveness to vernalisation and photoperiod.


Publication title

Crop & Pasture Science






Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture (TIA)


C S I R O Publishing

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  • Restricted

Socio-economic Objectives

Sown pastures (excl. lucerne)

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