Effects of a stay-green trait on the concentrations and stability of fatty acids in perennial ryegrass

Richard J. Dewhurst, Jon M. Moorby, Nigel D. Scollan, John K. S. Tweed, Mervyn O. Humphreys

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Three experiments were conducted to evaluate the effect of a stay-green trait in perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne) on concentrations of fatty acids as well as their susceptibility to peroxidation during wilting and to biohydrogenation by rumen bacteria. Fatty acid concentrations were recorded in stay-green and corresponding normal perennial ryegrass selection lines over eight cuts during 1998. There was a progressive increase in total fatty acid concentrations [from 20·8 to 34·6 g kg−1 dry matter (DM)] and the proportion of fatty acids as α-linolenic acid (from 0·62 to 0·70 g g−1) from early to late season. A second study compared fatty acid concentrations in stay-green and normal herbage that was wilted for up to 48 h. There was a loss of 0·2–0·3 g g−1 fatty acids during 48 h of wilting and a small reduction in the rate of loss of α-linolenic acid in stay-green perennial ryegrass compared with normal herbage (0·223 vs. 0·290 g g−1 lost after 48 h). Stay-green and normal perennial ryegrasses were offered to grazing lambs in a third study. Higher concentrations of trans-vaccenic acid and conjugated linoleic acid in plasma from lambs offered less mature grass in the pre-experimental period than during the experiment are considered to reflect a greater supply of precursor (linoleic acid). There were higher concentrations of conjugated linoleic (0·0070 vs. 0·0039 g l−1) and linoleic (0·092 vs. 0·070 g l−1) acids, without an increase in trans-vaccenic acid, in plasma from lambs grazing stay-green perennial ryegrass than normal perennial ryegrass. This suggests that the stay-green trait affected the rate of degradation of fatty acids in the rumen. These results demonstrate the potential for obtaining proportionately large differences in fatty acid profiles of ruminant products by altering grassland management.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)360-366
Number of pages7
JournalGrass and Forage Science
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2002


  • grass
  • fatty acids
  • wilting
  • rumen biohydrogenation
  • a-linolenic acid


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