peer-reviewedThe goal of plant breeding is to effectively and efficiently select for the best phenotypes leading to the development of improved cultivars. The objectives for this review are to describe and critically evaluate breeding methods appropriate to the improvement of perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne L.) in a long-term breeding programme. The optimum breeding system is dependent on the traits for improvement, and the available physical and human resources. Forage dry matter yield, persistency, disease resistance, nutritional value and seed yield are considered among the most important traits for improvement. Careful consideration should be given to the expression of the trait under the management regime imposed in the breeding programme and under real-world sward conditions in the target sowing region. Recurrent selection programmes for intrapopulation improvement are most appropriate for breeding perennial ryegrass. Three distinct types of recurrent selection may be implemented: (i) phenotypic recurrent selection, (ii) genotypic recurrent selection and (iii) marker-assisted selection. Genotypic recurrent selection will be a necessary part of the breeding system if forage yield is a trait for improvement. Genotypic recurrent selection may be practiced using full-sib or half-sib families, each with their own advantages and disadvantages. Phenotypic recurrent selection in tandem (i.e., within-family selection) or in succession with genotypic recurrent selection should be used to improve traits that have a high-correlation between performance from spaced plants and from sward plots. Genome-wide selection represents the most interesting and exciting potential application of marker-assisted selection, although it remains to be seen how beneficial it will be in practice
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