Effect of replacing alfalfa with panicled-tick clover or sericea lespedeza in corn-alfalfa-based substrates on in vitro ruminal methane production. Academic Article uri icon


  • Methane emissions from ruminant livestock contribute to total anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions and reduce metabolizable energy intake by the animal. Condensed tannins (CT) are polyphenolic plant secondary compounds commonly produced by some perennial forage legumes that characteristically bind to protein, carbohydrates, and minerals. The degree to which CT may affect ruminant nutrition depends upon the concentration, structural composition, and biological activity of the CT. The objective of our experiment was to determine the effect of replacing alfalfa in a corn-alfalfa-based substrate with a legume containing CT on in vitro CH4 production and the dynamics of fermentation using an in vitro gas production technique. All fermented substrates contained 50% ground corn as the energy concentrate portion, whereas the forage portion (50%) of each diet was comprised of alfalfa (control) or some combination of alfalfa and sericea lespedeza (SL) or panicled-tick clover (PTC). Our treatments consisted of PTC or SL 15, 30, and 45, which corresponded with 15, 30, or 45% replacement of the diet (alfalfa component) with either PTC or SL. Substrates containing 45% PTC or SL reduced in vitro CH4 production. Treatments did not affect total gas production as compared with that of the control. Replacement of alfalfa with SL or PTC increased fermentable organic matter (FOM). The PTC treatment increased FOM by as much as 1.8% at the 45% replacement level, whereas FOM of SL 45 was increased by less than 1%. The replacement of alfalfa with PTC increased substrate nutritive value greater than replacement with SL. There were no correlations between any physicochemical constituent of the substrates and CH4 production. A combination of factors associated with the inclusion of PTC and SL contributed to the in vitro CH4 production, and CT in these forages was likely a major contributing factor. Further confirmation of these results on in situ or in vivo animal systems is required. If proven effective in an in vivo production scenario, replacement of commonly fed non-CT-containing legumes, such as alfalfa, with legumes containing CT might be a viable method to decrease the effect of animal agriculture on greenhouse gas production.

author list (cited authors)

  • Naumann, H. D., Lambert, B. D., Armstrong, S. A., Fonseca, M. A., Tedeschi, L. O., Muir, J. P., & Ellersieck, M. R.

publication date

  • January 1, 2015 11:11 AM