With the help of a small business grant from the USDA, Wisconsin farmer-breeder Peter Pitts teamed up with Pure-Seed Testing, Inc., of Hubbard, Ore., to create a now widely popular variety of conventional grass forage that is also probably the first certified organic festulolium in North America.
Pitts worked with Michael Casler, who was at that time a professor at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Today Casler is a grass breeder in Madison, at the Agricultural Research Service U.S. Dairy Forage Research Center.
Intrigued by Pitts’ success with festulolium (pronounced “fes-tu-lo-lium”), a ryegrass (Lolium genus) with a small number of meadow fescue (Festuca) genes, Casler bred the grass with festulolium growing in old university nursery plots throughout Wisconsin. These plants had survived many years of “get tough or die” conditions like those on Pitts’ old pasture on his 350-acre, mostly organic beef cattle farm.
Pure-Seed Testing’s breeder, Crystal Fricker, screened the plants in Oregon for stem rust resistance, yield, and other desired characteristics.… Continue readingRead More »