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Agronomy 2017, 7(1), 16; doi:10.3390/agronomy7010016

Diurnal Leaf Starch Content: An Orphan Trait in Forage Legumes

1
Molecular Plant Breeding, Institute of Agricultural Sciences, ETH Zurich, 8092 Zurich, Switzerland
2
Plant Biochemistry, Institute of Agricultural Sciences, ETH Zurich, 8092 Zurich, Switzerland
3
Molecular Ecology, Agroscope, 8046 Zurich, Switzerland
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editors: John W. Forster and Kevin F. Smith
Received: 30 November 2016 / Revised: 2 February 2017 / Accepted: 6 February 2017 / Published: 20 February 2017
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Abstract

Forage legumes have a relatively high biomass yield and crude protein content, but their grazed and harvested biomass lacks the high-energy carbohydrates required to meet the productivity potential of modern livestock breeds. Because of their low carbohydrate content, forage legume diets are typically supplemented with starch rich cereal grains or maize (Zea mays), leading to the disruption of local nutrient cycles. Although plant leaves were first reported to accumulate starch in a diurnal pattern over a century ago, leaf starch content has yet to be exploited as an agronomic trait in forage crops. Forage legumes such as red clover (Trifolium pratense) have the genetic potential to accumulate up to one third of their leaf dry mass as starch, but this starch is typically degraded at night to support nighttime growth and respiration. Even when diurnal accumulation is considered with regard to the time the crop is harvested, only limited gains are realized due to environmental effects and post-harvest losses from respiration. Here we present original data for starch metabolism in red clover and place it in the broader context of other forage legumes such as, white clover (T. repens), and alfalfa (Medicago sativa). We review the application of recent advances in molecular breeding, plant biology, and crop phenotyping, to forage legumes to improve and exploit a potentially valuable trait for sustainable ruminant livestock production. View Full-Text
Keywords: forage legumes; non-soluble carbohydrates; starch; water soluble carbohydrates forage legumes; non-soluble carbohydrates; starch; water soluble carbohydrates
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This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY 4.0).

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MDPI and ACS Style

Ruckle, M.E.; Meier, M.A.; Frey, L.; Eicke, S.; Kölliker, R.; Zeeman, S.C.; Studer, B. Diurnal Leaf Starch Content: An Orphan Trait in Forage Legumes. Agronomy 2017, 7, 16.

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