Interspecific hybridisation is being utilised in white clover (Trifolium repens L.) breeding programs to overcome factors currently restricting productivity and persistence. Valuable new traits that may be introduced from the wild relative T. uniflorum include root characteristics and other adaptations to its natural, Mediterranean habitat. This study examined the effect of hybridisation on growth and macronutrient composition of white clover compared with T. uniflorum and T. repens × T. uniflorum backcross 1 (BC1) hybrids in two glasshouse sand culture experiments. Shoot and root dry weights of BC1 hybrids were greater than of white clover in low-concentration nutrient treatments but not in a more concentrated treatment. Decreases in dry weight with decreasing nutrient treatment strength were also smaller for some BC1 hybrids compared with white clover and other hybrid families. Most foliar macronutrient levels were adequate for white clover growth, but mean shoot or leaf phosphorus (P) concentrations were below published critical levels. Higher dry matter production under these low internal P concentrations suggests that some T. repens × T. uniflorum BC1 hybrids may be more tolerant of lower soil P levels than white clover. Such adaptations are likely to have been inherited from T. uniflorum. However, transgressive segregation may also be occurring, as T. uniflorum was larger than white clover in some, but not all, cases of low nutrient supply.
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Vol. 65 • No. 4