Brachiaria fodder grass minimises methane in cattle farming.
The discovery of genes responsible for asexual reproduction in a tropical grass may reduce negative impacts of cattle farming.
Photo: CIAT/M. Worthington

24.05.2019

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The discovery of genes responsible for asexual reproduction in a tropical grass may reduce negative impacts of cattle farming. The grass captures carbon, reduces gas emissions from soils, restores degraded land, and improves cattle health and productivity.

Cattle are a mainstay for many smallholders. But smallholdings are often on degraded land, which increases cattle’s impact on the environment and lowers their production of milk and meat. Researchers at the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), Cali, Colombia, have shown that Brachiaria grass species can reduce greenhouse gas emissions from cattle and increase productivity – and breeding improved varieties can potentially augment the environmental and economic benefits.

But the breeding process is difficult, time-consuming and expensive. A breakthrough on Brachiaria’s complex genome may make breeding much more efficient, and potentially increase the speed with which new grasses begin benefiting cattle farmers and the environment.

Margaret Worthington, a geneticist at CIAT and the University of Arkansas/USA, and colleagues created the first dense molecular map of B. humidicola, a robust and environmentally friendly forage grass. They also pinpointed the candidate genes for the plant’s asexual reproductive mechanism, which is a huge asset for plant breeders.

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