Where did Persist come from, and why such excitement about its release?
The breeding history behind Persist is very interesting and explains why so many are excited about its release and availability. The quest to develop a more persistent orchardgrass began all the way back in 1959...nearly 50 years ago! You see, a major plant collection took place from 1959-1961 throughout the state of Tennessee. But this was no ordinary collection. This collection was composed of seed from plants in 6-year or older orchardgrass stands (Fribourg and Burns, 1961). Seeds were collected from 97 ecotypes (strains) in 45 Tennessee counties! Each of these strains was then replicated twice and planted at three University of Tennessee experiment sites.
After the first year establishment, the plants were subjected to a severe treatment of clipping or grazing to a height of about 1", 3-4 times during the spring and summer. This pressure continued for four years. No fertilization was applied during any of this time. After the four years, individual surviving plants were selected from each of the three locations and multiplied out.
In September of 1976, Dr. Bob Conger, the new leader of the U of TN's forage breeding and genetics program identified 42 plants that would be selected and cloned for further propagation. Ten replications of each clone were established at Knoxville, TN. Further comparisons and evaluations were made and then the six most outstanding clones were chosen to be what was then called "Syn-2" and eventually named Persist.
After being "established as a variety" the real testing began. Some seed was sent to Jimmy Henning at the University of Kentucky. Other seed was used in Tennessee for some very important trial work. The findings of these trials proved to be very exciting for researchers and other observers as they learned how special Persist is compared to other orchardgrasses. To find learn about the results of these trials visit our Hay Yields page.