Forage grass growth under future climate change scenarios affects fermentation and ruminant efficiency

Elizabeth H. Hart, Sarah R. Christofides, Teri E. Davies, Pauline Rees Stevens, Christopher J. Creevey, Carsten T. Müller, Hilary J. Rogers, Alison H. Kingston-smith

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With an increasing human population access to ruminant products is an important factor in global food supply. While ruminants contribute to climate change, climate change could also affect ruminant production. Here we investigated how the plant response to climate change affects forage quality and subsequent rumen fermentation. Models of near future climate change (2050) predict increases in temperature, CO2, precipitation and altered weather systems which will produce stress responses in field crops. We hypothesised that pre-exposure to altered climate conditions causes compositional changes and also primes plant cells such that their post-ingestion metabolic response to the rumen is altered. This “stress memory” effect was investigated by screening ten forage grass varieties in five differing climate scenarios, including current climate (2020), future climate (2050), or future climate plus flooding, drought or heat shock. While varietal differences in fermentation were detected in terms of gas production, there was little effect of elevated temperature or CO2 compared with controls (2020). All varieties consistently showed decreased digestibility linked to decreased methane production as a result of drought or an acute flood treatment. These results indicate that efforts to breed future forage varieties should target tolerance of acute stress rather than long term climate.
Original languageEnglish
Article number4454
Number of pages14
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
Early online date15 Mar 2022
Publication statusPublished - 01 Dec 2022


  • Animals
  • Carbon Dioxide/metabolism
  • Climate Change
  • Fermentation
  • Humans
  • Plant Breeding
  • Poaceae
  • Rumen/metabolism
  • Ruminants


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