less intensive production in Northern EU countries based on the
use of forage legumes for silage have potentially low inputs of
fertilisers and concentrate feeds, they have had little impact
to the present because of poor productivity and persistence of
the varieties and species available, the lack of integrated studies
on legume production and utilisation and the ready availability
of cheap nitrogenous fertilisers.
objective of the project is to provide the technical basis for
economically efficient but less intensive animal production for
northern EU countries based on the use of forage legumes for silage.
project investigates the use in northern EU countries of novel
plant materials within the genera Galega, Lotus, Medicago and
Trifolium, which are very promising for overcoming the disadvantages
of existing materials.
addition to contributing information in relation to less intensive
animal production systems, the use of forage legumes has the potential
to better protect the environment through reduction in nitrogen
legumes are the cornerstone of efficient organic farming systems.
The project involves integrated investigations in four countries
and addresses the following Tasks:
To obtain information on productivity and nutritive quality of
a range of forage legumes, both grown conventionally and in organic
To ascertain losses of nitrate through leaching from growing a
range of forage legumes.
To establish reliable techniques for the successful preservation
of forage legumes through ensiling.
To ascertain animal responses and N balances with contrasting
legume silages in relation to grass silage, particularly for milk
To assess the economic and environmental impact of using forage
legumes for animal production in northern Europe.
the project will establish the contribution that forage legumes,
specifically and generally, can make to economically and environmentally
sustainable animal production in the northern EU.
of the main outputs from the project will be a Technical Report,
targeted to extension workers and consultants, outlining major
project conclusions and providing advice on land use and animal
production based on forage legumes for silage.
database of previous research on the productivity of forage legumes
has been prepared and a paper summarising this information submitted
for publication. This highlighted the paucity of information,
particularly for lotus and galega. The project will make a major
contribution in providing consistent information from an experiment
at 12 sites through the study area. The treatments include 'standard'
and locally adapted varieties of white clover, red clover, lucerne,
lotus and galega, grown alone and in mixture with grass for assessment
of yield and quality.
the first year yields for the best legume treatments were generally
higher than those for grass receiving 200kgN/ha. Although on some
sites lucerne was the most productive legume, red clover was well
adapted across the study area. These data will be used to validate
a mechanistic model of the growth of the different species based
on physiological information and reaction to climatic factors.
experiment provides the basis for assessing impacts on nitrate
leaching, which has been found to be higher for the pure legumes
than for legume-grass mixtures and generally higher than for grass
receiving 200kgN/ha. Concentrations of nitrate have, however,
been lower than the EU limit for drinking water.
techniques for ensiling forage legumes have been developed. All
of the legumes have low contents of water soluble carbohydrates
and high buffering capacity, giving a high risk of poor preservation,
unless the crops are wilted to c. 40% dry matter or to a somewhat
lower dry matter and ensiled with use of a chemical or biological
additive. All legume silages have been stable in aerobic conditions
after silo opening.
are being used in feeding experiments with sheep and dairy cows.
Results from the first experiments have confirmed that voluntary
intake is higher with legumes than with grass. In the experiments
with sheep, lotus silages have given particularly high intakes.
The cow experiments have used white clover, red clover, lucerne
and galega. Particularly high levels of performance have been
found with white clover silage, associated with high intake and
high digestibility. A wide range of assessments of the composition
of the silages and of their degradation in vitro are being
made to explain the variation in animal response.
from the project are providing a key input to assessments of the
economic and environmental impact of using forage legumes in animal
production systems in northern Europe. A simple assessment of
costs of inputs and returns from animal products in the project
experiments is being made. The major effort, however, is in the
construction of models of forage production and dairy cow feeding
which will enable calculation of the impact throughout the study
area of the partial substitution of grass by forage legumes and
the sensitivity of the results to changing economic factors.
addition to publications in scientific journals and meetings,
a Technical Report will be targeted to extension workers and consultants.
An application has been made to EU under Accompanying Measures
for further actions to facilitate dissemination of the project
description of the project has been published in Grassland Science
in Europe Vol. 3, pp. 285-288 and three papers on forage production,
ensiling and dairy cow feeding will be presented at the European
Grassland Federation Meeting in Denmark in May 2000.
of Grassland and Environmental Research
+44 1837 88 35 50
+44 1837 82 998
- Joerg GREEF
Federal Agricultural Research Centre
Tel: +49 531 59 63 78
Fax: +49 531 59 63 20
- Jan BERTILSSON
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences
Kungsaengen Research Centre
S-753 23 Uppsala
Tel: +46 18 67 16 45
Fax: +46 18 67 29 46
- Liisa Syrjala-Qvist
University of Helsinki
Department of Animal Science
P.O. Box 28
Tel: +358 9 191 585 60
Fax: +358 9 191 583 79
- Christopher DOYLE
Scottish Agricultural College
UK-KA6 5HW Ayr
Tel: +44 1292 52 50 53
Fax: +44 1292 52 50 52
- Juha NOUSIAINEN
P.O. Box 390
Tel: +358 9 103 811 21
Fax: +358 9 103 813 219