Forage crops

Forage crops are a collective term for different perennial grass and meadow legumes. They are grown in meadows and are harvested by mowing or animals grazing. Graminor breed and represent varieties within 16 different forage crop species.

The most important forage crop species for the Norwegian farmer are Timothy grass, Meadow Fescue, ryegrass, red clover, and white clover.

Forage crop seeds are usually available to the Norwegian farmer in the form of seed mixtures. The mixtures are made by seed companies and are adapted to different parts of the country. Seed mixtures are composed of different species and varieties that complement each other. Some varieties are also available in pure stock.


The most important traits in forage crop breeding is:

  • Yield
  • Duration
  • Resistance to disease
  • Winter hardiness
  • Feed quality
  • Seeding ability

The priorities in traits are different across species. Yield is important in all species. In Timothy, feed quality is especially important. In red clover resistance to frost and clover rot is very important. In English ryegrass, we want to increase the useable area in Norway by producing varieties with better winter hardiness. Seeding ability is especially important in tetraploid red clover and white clover.

Breeding methods

Most of Graminor’s forage crop breeding is based on progeny testing. Carefully selected parents are crossed and the offspring is tested to breed new and better varieties. Every year we make about 400 crosses within 3 to 4 species. Grass species are pollinated by the wind while legumes such as red and white clover are pollinated by bumblebees.

Plant breeding is a long process. It takes between 10 and 15 years to breed new varieties within most species. Forage crops take even longer. It can take up to 27 years from the first crossing is done until a new forage crop is available to farmers.

Since forage crops are perennial plants, it takes many years to test them in the field. We have two rounds of testing, selection and propagation of seeds that altogether take 20 years. After 20 years, we have a handful of potential new varieties that are sent for official variety testing. We send potential new varieties to official testing every year.

In addition to traditional breeding methods, Graminor also utilize newer technological methods. In the NexTim project for instance we collaborate with NMBU and the Norwegian Computing Centre. The goal of this project is to breed new and better timothy varieties for different parts of Norway through the use of Big Data methods.

In addition to testing at the research station, Bjørke forsøksgård in Hamar, the variety material is tested to varying degrees at NIBIO’s units: NIBIO Nord Holt in Tromsø and at NIBIO Vest Fureneset in Askvoll and by NLR at Løken farm in Valdres.

The most important forage crops in Norway


Timothy grass is the most significant and cultivated species among the forage crops. It provides high yield of good quality with an appealing taste. Timothy grass is primarily used for hay production. One challenge in cultivating timothy grass is its persistence under intensive management. Approximately 30% of the timothy grass varieties sown in Norway are from Graminor.


English ryegrass provides a high yield of good quality, but it is less winter-hardy than timothy grass and meadow fescue. Ryegrass tolerates frequent mowing better than timothy grass. Diploid varieties are suitable for grazing, while tetraploid varieties are suitable for mowing

Meadow Fescue

Meadow fescue tolerates intensive management and grazing better than timothy grass. Additionally, meadow fescue is more drought-tolerant and exhibits better regrowth ability compared to timothy grass. However, the quality and palatability are slightly lower than in timothy grass. Varieties of meadow fescue adapted to both southern and northern regions exist. Nearly all the meadow fescue sown in Norway consists of varieties from Graminor

Red clover

Red clover is the most important leguminous forage plant in Norway and is best suited for short-term hayfields. Red clover has a deep taproot that makes it drought-resistant. Due to its ability to fix nitrogen from the air, red clover is particularly significant in organic farming. It provides a high yield of good quality with high protein content and excellent forage intake. There are diploid and tetraploid varieties and cultivars adapted to both southern and northern regions. Nearly all the red clover cultivated in Norway comes from Graminor’s varieties. Currently, Gandalf is the largest diploid variety.

White clover

White clover is suitable for grazing, intensive harvesting systems, and long-lasting meadows. Similar to red clover, white clover has the ability to fix nitrogen from the air. However, white clover has a much shallower root system compared to red clover, which makes the species drought-sensitive. White clover offers good quality with high protein and mineral content. The primary challenge concerning white clover is seed production. Currently, Litago is the largest variety.

Meet the forage crop team

Helga Amdahl, Forage crop breeder
Kristin Håland Gylstrøm, Assisting Forage Crop Breeder
Hilde Opheim, Research technichian
Jørgen Sørum, Research technichian
Rune Moen, Research technichian