Forage quality of Trifolium repens L. × T. nigrescens Viv. hybrids
Interspecific hybridization with the close relative Trifolium nigrescens Viv. (Ball clover) is a possible strategy to increase the seed yield potential of white clover (T. repens L.). Fertile F1 plants have been used as the basis for several generations of backcrossing using T. repens as the recurrent parent. Forage quality of the parental species and backcross hybrids when grown in mixtures with perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne L.) was compared in field plots over three harvest years. The dry-matter digestibility (DMD) and crude protein (CP) concentration of the legume fraction was greater than that of perennial ryegrass, but the water-soluble carbohydrate (WSC) concentration of the legume components was lower than that of perennial ryegrass. Differences in forage quality between T. repens and the backcross hybrids were relatively small. The WSC concentration of the backcrosses was less than T. repens but the CP concentration was greater. Significant differences in the forage quality of the companion grass were observed when grown with the parental species and the hybrids; however, these differences were attributed to the plots with T. nigrescens and the F1 plants, where the clover content was low. Few differences in the forage quality of the grass were measured when grown with T. repens and the backcross hybrids. The impact of these results on the use of these hybrids in cultivar development programmes is discussed.