Breeding Climate-Resilient Forages Across Canada

Project Title

Breeding Climate-Resilient Forage Germplasm for the Canadian Beef Industry: a National Collaboration


Bill Biligetu (University of Saskatchewan)

Annie Claessens (Co-Investigator; AAFC Quebec), Doug Cattani (University of Manitoba), Surya Acharya (AAFC Lethbridge), Hari Poudel (AAFC Lethbridge), Sean Asselin (AAFC Swift Curren), and Yousef Papadopoulos (AAFC Kentville)

Status Project Code
In progress. Results expected in March, 2028 FRG.02.21C


Perennial forages play a crucial role in the Canadian beef industry, and development of new varieties is important to continue to adapt to changing climatic conditions and producers needs. Forages not only provide high quality feed for cattle, but they also play a valuable role in environmental sustainability. Perennial forages are able to both sequester carbon and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Because of the small size of our Canadian industry and our unique challenges (i.e. long, cold winters) there is relatively low private investment in forage breeding.


  • To develop improved forage crop germplasm and varieties, establish a multi-site testing system for germplasm evaluation, and enhance national level collaboration on forage crop breeding

What they will do

All six of Canada’s forage breeding programs are collaborating on this project to develop improved germplasm of forage legumes (alfalfa, sainfoin, birdsfoot trefoil, and red clover),  forage grasses (hybrid brome, intermediate wheatgrass, tall fescue, Timothy, orchardgrass, and reed canary grass), and native plant species (prairie sandreed, switchgrass, plains rough fescue, northern wheatgrass, side oats grama and white prairie clover).  

Using primarily conventional field based breeding techniques, they will be breeding for improvements in 8 different areas:

  • High forage yield and quality under various climatic conditions
  • Drought tolerance of alfalfa, hybrid brome, and orchardgrass
  • Persistence of orchardgrass
  • Rapid regrowth and winter hardiness of sainfoin
  • Dual-purpose use of intermediate wheatgrass
  • Soft-leaf type tall fescue through selection for winter hardiness
  • High condensed tannin of birdsfoot trefoil
  • High forage yield of reed canarygrass
  • Improved establishment, biomass and seed production of native forages for range and restoration use.

They will also set up a national collaborative forage testing system in which new germplasm can be tested across Canada. They will also test new forage species for adaptation in Canada.


The goal of this project is not to develop new varieties of forage but to take crucial steps to understand what is required to develop new Canada specific climate-resilient varieties.