Progeny of perennial ryegrass (PRG) plants selected for low and high leaf shear strength were sown in a spaced-plant field experiment and were shown to differ in leaf strength in the same direction, confirming this to be a heritable trait. Selection for low leaf shear strength also reduced weight per leaf length, but had no effect on dry-matter (D.M.) percentage, growth score, rust score or tendency towards aftermath heading.
Rates of D.M. consumption (g D.M./min) and ruminal degradation of D.M. using the polyester bag technique, were then determined with small quantities of the two PRG selection lines, and also white clover, using sheep fed a basal diet of fresh ryegrass/white clover pasture. Selecting PRG for low leaf shear strength slightly reduced concentrations of cellulose and hemicellulose, slightly increased total N concentration and increased rate of D.M. consumption by sheep (17%) but had no effect on rates of ruminal D.M. degradation. The selection thus moved the nutritional characteristics of PRG in the direction of white clover.
The first nutritional response to the selection appears to be a faster rate of D.M. consumption, and it is considered that leaf shear strength has potential for selecting PRG with increased rates of voluntary intake by ruminants.