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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Legume Seed Germination As Affected by Rumen Fluid and the Ruminant Digestive Tract

Authors
item Turner, Kenneth
item Belesky, David
item Fedders, James
item Clay James C, - OHIO STATE UNIVERSITY

Submitted to: American Forage and Grassland Conference Proceedings
Publication Type: Proceedings
Publication Acceptance Date: March 12, 1995
Publication Date: N/A

Interpretive Summary: The Appalachian Region of the US has many pastures and grassland areas with limited accessibility by machinery for legume establishment. One method that may be used to overseed legumes into grass pastures is feeding legume seed to ruminants and allowing seed distribution via feces as the animals graze. We fed alfalfa or birdsfoot trefoil seed to mature sheep. After passage through the digestive tract, alfalfa seed germinated better than birdsfoot trefoil seed regardless of whether the sheep were grazing grass pastures or eating grass hay. This work is useful to animal scientists developing or refining grazing management strategies that are more ecologically sound for hill-land regions. It will benefit farmers in hill-land regions by decreasing reliance upon expensive farm equipment and petroleum products.

Technical Abstract: The Appalachian Region of the US has many pastures and grassland areas with limited accessibility by machinery for legume establishment. One method that may be used to overseed legumes is feeding seed to ruminants and allowing seed distribution via feces. For successful establishment, seed must have a hard seed coat in order to maintain viability after passage through the digestive tract. Studies were conducted to evaluate legume seed germination after exposure to rumen fluid and passage through the ruminant digestive tract. In vitro fermentation pretreatment using rumen fluid (Exp. 1) increased germination of alfalfa (Medicago sativa L. cv. Apollo and cv. Alfagraze) seed but decreased germination of birdsfoot trefoil (Lotus corniculatus L. cv. Norcen), red clover (Trifolium pratense L. cv. Kenstar), and white clover (Trifolium repens L. cv. Grasslands Huia) relative to no pretreatment of seeds in a standard germination trial. 'Alfagraze' alfalfa seed recovered from feces at 24, 36, 48, and 60 h post-feeding had greater germination compared to 'Norcen' birdsfoot trefoil regardless of whether sheep grazed pasture (Exp. 2) or were offered hay (Exp. 3). The temporal pattern of seed shed was similar for the two legumes. Passage rate and germination patterns of seed shed in feces may need to be considered when legumes are being established by this method.

Last Modified: 11/25/2014
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