Berseem cultivars

Screening of the Australian collection of a valuable forage legume, berseem clover, to identify and understand the range of genetic diversity within the collection is on track as an important first step in developing new cultivars.

Berseem clover is grown in Australia mainly for silage or hay cutting or as part of a mixture as a one year forage crop.

It is also one of the most important forage legumes grown in India, Pakistan, Egypt, the Middle East and the United States.

“Berseem clover can no longer be found growing wild, therefore development of more disease resistant and productive cultivar relies heavily on accessions held in genetic resource centres,” NSW DPI’s Dr Brian Dear said.

Also known as Egyptian clover, its origin has been debated, but modern molecular techniques which Dr Dear and his colleague Dr Harsh Raman are using at the Wagga Wagga Agricultural Institute are helping track down its origin and domestication.

“It is now thought to have originated in the fertile crescent and been taken into cultivation in the Nile Valley,” Dr Dear said.

“From there it went to Syria and Palestine, as occurred with the domestication of other important crops such as barley and wheat.”

Dr Dear says a project underway in the molecular biology laboratories at Wagga Wagga is the first step in developing an effective breeding project and demonstrates the benefits of international collaboration.

Dr Dear and Dr Raman are working with Professor Devendra Malayiva from the Indian Grassland and Fodder Research Institute located at Jhansi and Steve Hughes from the SARDI Genetic Resource Centre in Adelaide.

Dr Malayiva is working in the Department of Primary Industry labs at the Wagga Institute for three months.

The EH Graham Centre at Charles Sturt University and the Indian Department of Biotechnology are sponsoring the project.

Contact Brian Dear (02) 6938 1856, brian.dear@dpi.nsw.gov.au or Harsh Raman (02) 6938 1925, harsh.raman@dpi.nsw.gov.au, Wagga Wagga.