Assessment of the nutritive value of cereal and legume straws based on chemical composition and in vitro digestibility

Secundino López, David R. Davies, F. Javier Giráldez, Mewa Singh Dhanoa, Jan Dijkstra, James France

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The nutritive value of 17 straws was determined on the basis of their chemical composition, in vitro dry matter (DM) digestibility and rumen fermentation kinetics (from gas production curves measured in vitro). Five roughages were from the cereal species Avena sativa (oat), Hordeum vulgare (barley), Secale cereale (rye), Triticum aestivum (wheat) and Zea mays (maize stover). The other 12 samples were legume straws, two samples from each of the species Cicer arietinum (chickpea), Lens culinaris (lentil) and Phaseolus vulgaris (bean) and one sample from each of the species Lathyrus sativus (chickling vetch), Lupinus albus (white lupin), Pisum sativum (field pea), Vicia articulata (one-flowered vetch), Vicia ervilia (bitter vetch) and Vicia sativa (common vetch). All samples were collected after harvesting from different farms located in León (northwestern Spain). Based on their chemical composition, digestibility and gas production characteristics, species could be clustered into two groups with a significant linkage distance, one for cereal straws that merged at a level of similarity of 80% and the other for legume straws with a degree of similarity of 50%. Species varied widely and significant differences (P <0.05) were observed between the two groups of straws. Legume straws showed higher crude protein (74 ± 6.1 vs 29 ± 2.2 g kg-1 DM) and lower fibre (584 ± 18.1 vs 793 ± 27.5 g neutral detergent fibre kg-1 DM) contents than cereal straws and, consequently, DM digestibility coefficients (0.670 vs 0.609; standard error of difference 0.0054) and metabolisable energy values (7.4 ± 0.15 vs 5.7 ± 0.24 MJ kg-1 DM) were significantly greater in legume than in cereal straws. Although there were noticeable differences among species within each botanical family, legume straws showed better nutritional quality than cereal straws, indicating that they could be considered promising and interesting sources of roughage for incorporation into ruminant diets.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1550-1557
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of the Science of Food and Agriculture
Issue number9
Early online date07 Mar 2005
Publication statusPublished - 01 Jul 2005


  • cereal straw
  • legume straw
  • nutritive value
  • gas production
  • invitro digestibility
  • extent of degradation


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