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141145 - Revisiting variation in leaf magnesium concentrations in forage grasses for improved animal health.pdf (218.24 kB)

Revisiting variation in leaf magnesium concentrations in forage grasses for improved animal health

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posted on 2023-05-20, 18:15 authored by Beth PenroseBeth Penrose, Lovatt, JA, Palmer, S, Thomson, R, Broadley, MR

Aims: An Italian ryegrass cultivar (Lolium multiflorum Lam. cv. Bb2067), selected and bred for increased leaf magnesium (Mg) concentration in the 1970s, reduced the incidence of hypomagnesaemia in sheep under experimental grazings. Here, we report evidence from archival experiments showing that cv. Bb2067 had consistently greater Mg concentrations at multiple sites. We also aimed to quantify variation in leaf Mg concentration among modern perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne L.), hybrid ryegrass (Lolium perenne × multiflorum), and tall fescue (Festuca arundinacea Shreb.) cultivars.

Methods: Data are reported from unpublished 1980s field-plot experiments for cv. Bb2067 and contemporaneous reference cultivars, sown at two UK locations in 1983 and 1984, and from 397 cultivars of modern forage grass in 13 UK-based breeding experiments sampled in spring 2013.

Results: Across sites, years and cuts, cv. Bb2067 had a consistently greater leaf Mg concentration and lower potassium (K) concentration and forage tetany index (FTI) than reference cultivars in the 1980s experiments. Seasonal variation in leaf Mg and K concentrations and FTI were observed in the 1980s experiments, with K concentrations being generally greatest and Mg concentrations smallest in spring. Among modern forage grasses, there was large variation in leaf Mg concentration (up to 6.3-fold) and FTI (up to 2.1-fold), both within and between species, which varied independently of yield. Among a subset of hybrid ryegrass cultivars, there is evidence that the high Mg trait is already present in some modern breeding lines, albeit previously unreported.

Conclusions: The variation in leaf Mg concentration and FTI among old and new cultivars shows there is considerable potential to breed forages with improved mineral quality to improve livestock health, potentially without compromising yield or other nutritional traits.


Publication title

Plant and Soil








Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture (TIA)


Kluwer Academic Publ

Place of publication

Van Godewijckstraat 30, Dordrecht, Netherlands, 3311 Gz

Rights statement

Copyright 2020 Springer Nature Swizterland AG. This is a post-peer-review, pre-copyedit version of an article published in Plant Soil. The final authenticated version is available online at:

Repository Status

  • Restricted

Socio-economic Objectives

Sown pastures (excl. lucerne)

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