Magnesium biofortification of Italian ryegrass (Lolium multiflorum L.) via agronomy and breeding as a potential way to reduce grass tetany in grazing ruminants

Diriba B. Kumssa, Alan Lovatt, Neil Graham, Sarah Palmer, Rory Hayden, Lolita Wilson, Scott D. Young, R. Murray Lark, Beth Penrose, Louise Ander, Russell Thompson, Lin-Xi Jiang, Martin R. Broadley

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Abstract

Aim
Magnesium (Mg) deficiency (known as grass tetany) is a serious metabolic disorder that affects grazing ruminants. We tested whether Mg-fertiliser can increase Mg concentration of Italian ryegrasses (Lolium multiflorum L.) including a cultivar (cv. Bb2067; ‘Magnet’), bred to accumulate larger concentrations of Mg.

Methods
Under controlled environment (CE) conditions, three cultivars (cv. Bb2067, cv. Bb2068, cv. RvP) were grown in low-nutrient compost at six fertiliser rates (0–1500 μM MgCl2.6H2O). Under field conditions, the three cultivars in the CE condition and cv. Alamo were grown at two sites, and four rates of MgSO4 fertiliser application rates (0–200 kg ha−1 MgO). Multiple grass cuts were taken over two-years.

Results
Grass Mg concentration increased with increasing Mg-fertiliser application rates in all cultivars and conditions. Under field conditions, cv. Bb2067 had 11–73% greater grass Mg concentration and smaller forage tetany index (FTI) than other cultivars across the Mg-fertiliser application rates, sites and cuts. Grass dry matter (DM) yield of cv. Bb2067 was significantly (p 
Conclusions
Biofortification of grass with Mg through breeding and agronomy can improve the forage Mg concentration for grazing ruminants, even in high-growth spring grass conditions when hypomagnesaemia is most prevalent. Response to agronomic biofortification varied with cultivar, Mg-fertiliser rate, site and weather. The cost:benefit of these approaches and farmer acceptability, and the impact on cattle and sheep grazing on grasses biofortified with Mg requires further investigation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)25-41
Number of pages17
JournalPlant and Soil
Volume457
Issue number1-2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 01 Dec 2020

Keywords

  • forage tetany index (FTI)
  • grass staggers
  • hypomagnesaemia
  • italian ryegrass
  • magnesium chloride
  • magnesium sulphate

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