Abstract: Grazing management has been the focus of the research with forage plants in Brazil for many years. Only in the last two decades, however, significant changes and advances have occurred regarding the understanding of the key factors and processes that determine adequate use of tropical forage plants in pastures. The objective of this review is to provide an historical overview of the research with forage plants and grasslands in Brazil, highlighting advances, trends, and results, as well as to describe the current state of the art and identify future perspectives and challenges. The information is presented in a systematic manner, favoring an integrated view of the different trends and research philosophies. A critical appraisal is given of the need for revision and change of paradigms as a means of improving and consolidating the knowledge on animal production from pastures. Such analysis idealizes efficient, sound and sustainable grazing management practices necessary to realize the existing potential for animal production in the tropics.
Abstract: Although alfalfa is moderately tolerant of salinity, the effects of salinity on nutrient composition and forage parameters are poorly understood. In addition, there are no data on the effect of salinity on the antioxidant capacity of alfalfa. We evaluated four non-dormant, salinity-tolerant commercial cultivars, irrigated with saline water with electrical conductivities of 3.1, 7.2, 12.7, 18.4, 24.0, and 30.0 dS·m−1, designed to simulate drainage waters from the California Central Valley. Alfalfa shoots were evaluated for nutrient composition, forage parameters, and antioxidant capacity. Salinity significantly increased shoot N, P, Mg, and S, but decreased Ca and K. Alfalfa micronutrients were also affected by salinity, but to a lesser extent. Na and Cl increased significantly with increasing salinity. Salinity slightly improved forage parameters by significantly increasing crude protein, the net energy of lactation, and the relative feed value. All cultivars maintained their antioxidant capacity regardless of salinity level. The results indicate that alfalfa can tolerate moderate to high salinity while maintaining nutrient composition, antioxidant capacity, and slightly improved forage parameters, thus meeting the standards required for dairy cattle feed.
Abstract: Agricultural producers are interested in using biomass available on farms to substitute fossil fuels for heat production. However, energy crops like reed canary grass contain high nitrogen (N), sulfur (S), potassium (K) and other ash-forming elements which lead to increased emissions of gases and particulate matter (PM) and ash-related operational problems (e.g., melting) during combustion. To address these problematic behaviors, reed canary grass was blended with wood (50 wt%) and fuel additives (3 wt%) such as aluminum silicates (sewage sludge), calcium (limestone) and sulfur (lignosulfonate) based additives. When burned in a top-feed pellet boiler (29 kW), the four blends resulted in a 17%–29% decrease of PM concentrations compared to pure reed canary grass probably because of a reduction of K release to flue gas. Nitrogen oxides (NOx) and sulfur dioxide (SO2) emissions varied according to fuel N and S contents. This explains the lower NOx and SO2 levels obtained with wood based products and the higher SO2 generation with the grass/lignosulfonate blend. The proportion of clinkers found in combustion ash was greatly lessened (27%–98%) with the use of additives, except for lignosulfonate. The positive effects of some additives may allow agricultural fuels to become viable alternatives.
Abstract: It is known that plant height is a suitable parameter for estimating crop biomass. The aim of this study was to confirm the validity of spatial plant height data, which is derived from terrestrial laser scanning (TLS), as a non-destructive estimator for biomass of paddy rice on the field scale. Beyond that, the spatial and temporal transferability of established biomass regression models were investigated to prove the robustness of the method and evaluate the suitability of linear and exponential functions. In each growing season of two years, three campaigns were carried out on a field experiment and on a farmer’s conventionally managed field. Crop surface models (CSMs) were generated from the TLS-derived point clouds for calculating plant height with a very high spatial resolution of 1 cm. High coefficients of determination between CSM-derived and manually measured plant heights (R2: 0.72 to 0.91) confirm the applicability of the approach. Yearly averaged differences between the measurements were ~7% and ~9%. Biomass regression models were established from the field experiment data sets, based on strong coefficients of determination between plant height and dry biomass (R2: 0.66 to 0.86 and 0.65 to 0.84 for linear and exponential models, respectively). The spatial and temporal transferability of the models to the farmer’s conventionally managed fields is supported by strong coefficients of determination between estimated and measured values (R2: 0.60 to 0.90 and 0.56 to 0.85 for linear and exponential models, respectively). Hence, the suitability of TLS-derived spatial plant height as a non-destructive estimator for biomass of paddy rice on the field scale was verified and the transferability demonstrated.
Abstract: Mycotoxins are secondary fungal metabolites, toxic to humans, animals and plants. Among the hundreds of known mycotoxins, aflatoxins, citrinin, patulin, penicillic acid, tenuazonic acid, ochratoxin A, cytochalasins, deoxynivalenol, fumonisins, fusarin C, fusaric acid, and zearalenone are considered the types that most contaminate cereal grain. The majority of the mycotoxins in these groups are produced by three fungal genera: Aspergillus, Penicillium and Fusarium. These metabolites primarily affect the seed quality, germination, viability, seedling vigour, growth of root and cleoptile. Additionally, since the fungi responsible for the production of these mycotoxins are often endophytes that infect and colonize living plant tissues, accumulation of mycotoxins in the plant tissues may at times be associated with development of plant disease symptoms. The presence of mycotoxins, even in the absence of disease symptoms, may still have subtle biological effects on the physiology of plants. Several studies highlight the toxic effects of mycotoxins on animals and cell lines but little is known about the mode of action of most of these metabolites on plant cells. The most important mycotoxins with phytotoxic effects and their producers in addition to their discovery are briefly outlined below and will be addressed in this article.
Abstract: The two temperate forage legumes containing condensed tannins (CT) that promote ruminant production are birdsfoot trefoil (Lotuscorniculatus L.; BFT) and sainfoin (Onobrychisviciifolia Scop.; SF). Both are well-adapted to the cool-temperate climate and alkaline soils of the Mountain West USA. Condensed tannins comprise a diverse family of bioactive chemicals with multiple beneficial functions for ruminants, including suppression of internal parasites and enteric methane. Birdsfoot trefoil contains 10 to 40 g·CT·kg−1 dry matter (DM), while SF contains 30 to 80 g·CT·kg−1 DM. Our studies have focused on these two plant species and have demonstrated consistently elevated rates of gain for beef calves grazing both BFT and SF. Novel results from our BFT research include carcass dressing percentages and consumer sensory evaluations equivalent to feedlot-finished steers and significantly greater than grass-finished steers, but with omega-3 fatty acid concentrations equal to grass-finished beef. We have further demonstrated that ruminants fed BFT or SF will consume more endophyte-infected tall fescue (Schedonorusarundinaceus (Schreb.) Dumort.) forage or seed than ruminants fed a non-CT forage legume. There is great potential value for sustainable livestock production in the use of highly digestible, nitrogen-fixing legumes containing tannins demonstrated to improve ruminant productivity.