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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: The Molecular Basis of Forage Quality: Structural Foundation for Improvement Strategies

Authors
item HATFIELD, RONALD
item Ralph, John
item Grabber, John - FORMER ARS EMPLOYEE

Submitted to: Agronomy Abstracts
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: October 30, 1997
Publication Date: N/A

Technical Abstract: Structural carbohydrates within forage cell walls are a source of energy; yet on average less than 50% are utilized by ruminants. Researchers have sought ways to unlock this store of energy, increasing the economic benefit of forages as ruminant feeds. Lignin concentration is correlated with decreased wall digestibility; yet the underlying mechanisms have not been fully defined. Recent evidence suggests that the cross-linked nature of th wall is as critical, if not more so, than the simple concentration of lignin. Significant advances have been made in determining the molecular nature of wall cross-links and their impact upon wall structure and function. It is now well established that ferulates play a major role in wall cross-linking. Work with model systems clearly demonstrates the negative impact of ferulate cross-linking on wall degradation, whereas simply altering lignin composition has little impact. As our molecular comprehension of wall component interactions increases, the metabolic pathways for their formation are also revealed. Key metabolic steps can be targeted for genetic manipulation, focusing on specific genes to enhance forage quality without sacrificing productivity. We are on the verge of designing forages to fit the needs of specific production systems, providing greater economic and environmental advantages to the producer.

Last Modified: 8/19/2014
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