A proposal for enhanced EU herbage VCU and DUS testing procedures

Trevor J. Gilliland*, Paolo Annicchiarico, Bernadette Julier, Marc Ghesquière

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)
59 Downloads (Pure)


Herbage production is regarded as having environment-friendly credentials. However, as the ruminant production it supports is facing major challenges on sustainability, environmental footprint and human health concerns, EU herbage cultivar testing must contribute to the solutions. Before new cultivars can be sold in a member state (MS) and gain EU-wide marketing, they must pass official tests to prove they are both novel (distinct, uniform and stable, DUS) with improved value for cultivation and use (VCU). Herbage species present specific challenges, as their allogamy imposes a wide within-cultivar variation that adds complexity to DUS tests and their “value” is only realized in ruminant produce. Current VCU systems measure production, chemical composition and disease/stress tolerances, often on large numbers of candidate cultivars, but prohibitive labour costs and logistics mean that animal intake, ruminant output or environmental benefits cannot be measured directly. Furthermore, some candidate cultivars with proven superior VCU fail DUS even though the non-distinct comparison is with a significantly lower performing registered cultivar. To resolve these problem cases, a “vmDUS” distinctness tool is proposed, which uses molecular markers but conforms to UPOV-declared principles. A short overview of current grassland research shows smart proxy measures of animal value can easily and quickly be adopted into an integrated pan-European (EU-VCU) test network. The proposed EU-VCU scheme will reallocate test resources to conduct these additional tests by placing MS in data sharing collaborations, while retaining their national listing authority. The benefits to all stakeholders from adopting these new testing procedures are considered.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)227-241
Number of pages15
JournalGrass and Forage Science
Issue number3
Early online date07 Jul 2020
Publication statusPublished - 01 Sep 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors contributed to this article in the context of the EU Horizon 2020 projects INVITE (PA, BJ and MG, H2020-SFS-2018-2, www.h2020-invite.eu) and InnoVar (TJG, H2020-SFS-2018-29, https://cordis.europa.eu/project/rcn/223223/factsheet/en).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 The Authors. Grass and Forage Science published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd

Copyright 2020 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • cultivar
  • distinct
  • herbage
  • markers
  • uniform and stable
  • value for cultivation and use

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agronomy and Crop Science
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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