A plant breeder is hoping a research breakthrough will re-establish white clover as the number one pasture species on New Zealand farms.
Scientists at AgResearch's Grasslands campus in Palmerston North have traced white clover's European ancestors - an alpine species and a coastal type that probably hybridised during the Ice Age.
Dr Warren Williams says now they have identified the original species, they can use them and other varieties to cross-breed clovers offering new benefits, such as drought tolerance and pest resistance, and ability to grow in low fertility soils.
He hopes that will re-establish clover's place over ryegrass, as the most important pasture plant.
''Dairy farmers have come to use rye grass as a high quality feed and this could make white clover what it was (previously),'' he said.