BACKGROUND: In crop species, QTL analysis is commonly used for identification of factors contributing to variation of agronomically important traits. As an important pasture species, a large number of QTLs have been reported for perennial ryegrass based on analysis of biparental mapping populations. Further characterisation of those QTLs is, however, essential for utilisation in varietal improvement programs. RESULTS: A bibliographic survey of perennial ryegrass trait-dissection studies identified a total of 560 QTLs from previously published papers, of which 189, 270 and 101 were classified as morphology-, physiology- and resistance/tolerance-related loci, respectively. The collected dataset permitted a subsequent meta-QTL study and implementation of a cross-species candidate gene identification approach. A meta-QTL analysis based on use of the BioMercator software was performed to identify two consensus regions for pathogen resistance traits. Genes that are candidates for causal polymorphism underpinning perennial ryegrass QTLs were identified through in silico comparative mapping using rice databases, and 7 genes were assigned to the p150/112 reference map. Markers linked to the LpDGL1, LpPh1 and LpPIPK1 genes were located close to plant size, leaf extension time and heading date-related QTLs, respectively, suggesting that these genes may be functionally associated with important agronomic traits in perennial ryegrass. CONCLUSIONS: Functional markers are valuable for QTL meta-analysis and comparative genomics. Enrichment of such genetic markers may permit further detailed characterisation of QTLs. The outcomes of QTL meta-analysis and comparative genomics studies may be useful for accelerated development of novel perennial ryegrass cultivars with desirable traits.