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ARS Home » Plains Area » Las Cruces, New Mexico » Range Management Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #338716

Research Project: MANAGEMENT TECHNOLOGIES FOR CONSERVATION OF WESTERN RANGELANDS

Location: Range Management Research

Title: Phenological changes in the nutritive value of honey mesquite leaves, pods, and flowers in the Chihuahuan Desert

Author
item MAYAGOITIA, P. - New Mexico State University
item BAILEY,, D. - New Mexico State University
item Estell, Richard - Rick

Submitted to: Agrosystems, Geosciences & Environment
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 2/3/2020
Publication Date: 4/17/2020
Citation: Mayagoitia, P., Bailey,, D.W., Estell, R.E. 2020. Phenological changes in the nutritive value of honey mesquite leaves, pods, and flowers in the Chihuahuan Desert. Agrosystems, Geosciences & Environment. 3:e20026. https://doi.org/10.1002/agg2.20026.
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1002/agg2.20026

Interpretive Summary: Honey mesquite is an invasive woody species in the southwestern United States. The plant is high in protein but leaves are used sparingly by livestock. Little information exists on the nutrient content of different plant parts and during different seasons. We assessed the nutrient value and digestibility of honey mesquite leaves, pods and 'owers throughout the growing season. Crude protein content of leaves decreased over the growing season and acid detergent 'ber and neutral detergent 'ber increased with time. Crude protein content of pods decreased over time, but fiber content did not change. Crude protein content of flowers ranged from 17 to 24%. In vitro digestibility of a mixture of 30% mesquite leaves plus 70% grass ranged from 42-53% and was not affected by season, while flowers and pods in the same mixture ranged from 42-62% and 38-57%, respectively. Mesquite flowers may provide a source of protein during a time when grasses are dormant. Mesquite pods may serve as a source of protein during late summer and early fall. Mesquite 'owers and pods can be valuable forage resources for cattle during dormancy and droughts when forage quality and quantity are typically limited.

Technical Abstract: Honey mesquite (Prosopis glandulosa Torr.) is a potential foraging resource in southwestern United States (US) rangelands and in other semi-arid rangelands. Yet, intake by ruminants is limited. We conducted a series of in vitro digestion experiments to assess phenological changes in nutrient value and relative digestibility of honey mesquite leaves, pods and 'owers throughout the 2012 growing season. Crude protein content of leaves decreased (P < 0.05) during the year, while acid detergent 'ber (ADF) and neutral detergent 'ber (NDF) increased (P < 0.05). Crude protein content of pods decreased (P < 0.05) over time, but we did not detect (P > 0.10) any phenological changes in ADF or NDF levels. In vitro gas production for both leaves and pods differed (P < 0.001) among dates, and values from spring and summer were lower than in the fall. Gas production values suggest that the concentration of secondary compounds of mesquite leaves may decrease in late summer. Mesquite 'owers and pods can be valuable forage resources for cattle. Although mesquite leaves contain nutrients, secondary compounds likely limit intake, especially in late spring and early summer when the crude protein in mesquite leaves would be most bene'cial because the quality of herbaceous forages in southwestern US rangeland at that time is usually low.