Effects of drought-stressed temperate forage legumes on the degradation and the rumen microbial community in vitro
According to climate change scenarios, central Europe may expect extending drought periods during summer. Lower water availability may influence the ruminal digestion of individual forage legume species differently. To test this hypothesis, Lotus corniculatus L. (var. Bull), Medicago lupulina L. (var. Ekola), Medicago falcata L. (wild seeds) and Trifolium repens L. (var. Rivendel) were each grown in parallel lots of control and drought-stressed monocultures. Rainout shelters (installed in May 2011 on a regrowth after first cut until harvest in mid of June) withheld rainfall of 40 mm in the drought stress treatment. Samples of dried (60°C) and milled (5 mm screen) forage legumes were incubated in a simulation experiment using Rusitec to assess drought effects on parameters for microbial metabolism. Degradability of dry matter and organic matter as well as methane production decreased in incubations with drought-stressed compared to control variants of legume species. Degradability of crude protein, neutral detergent fibre, acid detergent fibre and residual organic matter including non-fibre carbohydrates and lipids were affected by interactions between drought stress and species. Significant interactions were also found for ammonia concentrations, molar SCFA proportions and the microbial communities. It is concluded that drought stress for growing forage legumes influences their ruminal degradation and fermentation as well as the ruminal microbial communities of Bacteria and Archaea differently in a legume species-dependent manner.
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