An assessment of the ability of the stay-green phenotype in Lolium species to provide an improved protein supply for ruminants

Mervyn O. Humphreys, Alison H. Kingston-Smith, Michael K. Theodorou, Andrea L. Bollard

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14 Citations (Scopus)


The stay-green phenotype results from a naturally occurring mutation in which senescent leaves retain their chlorophyll and the associated apoprotein, LHCPII. Protection of this protein pool could deliver grass with enhanced protein content and could decrease the extent of protein degradation by plant proteases in the rumen. This would enhance the efficiency of protein utilization in livestock to the benefit of the environment. Field plots of stay-green and wild-type Lolium perenne were defoliated at intervals to simulate grazing. There were variations in foliar protein content and proteolysis throughout the year, but no significant differences between genotypes when material was analysed fresh or after it was cut and dried to simulate hay-making, which possibly induced senescence. In a subsequent experiment with stay-green and wild-type L. temulentum, increased protein retention and decreased protein degradability were observed in stay-green leaves that were allowed to senescence naturally and extensively on the plant. That there is no difference between the two L. perenne genotypes suggests that as a field crop in grazed pastures the stay-green genotype would not confer a nutritional advantage in terms of protein degradability. It is possible that grazing promotes a high proportion of non-senescent to senescent leaf material within the sward and thus any advantage conferred by the stay-green phenotype would be effectively masked by an abundance of mature foliage. It is suggested that the stay-green trait would be of benefit in areas where agricultural practice permits extensive natural senescence to occur.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)731-740
Number of pages10
JournalAnnals of Botany
Publication statusPublished - 01 Jun 2002


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