Plant-based strategies towards minimising livestock's long shadow

A. H. Kingston-Smith, Joan Elizabeth Edwards, S. A. Huws, E. J. Kim, M. T. Abberton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Ruminant farming is an important component of the human food chain. Ruminants can use offtake from land unsuitable for cereal crop cultivation via interaction with the diverse microbial population in their rumens. The rumen is a continuous flow fermenter for the digestion of ligno-cellulose, with microbial protein and fermentation end-products incorporated by the animal directly or during post-ruminal digestion. However, ruminal fermentation is inefficient in capturing the nutrient resource presented, resulting in environmental pollution and generation of greenhouse gases. Methane is generated as a consequence of ruminal fermentation and poor retention of ingested forage nitrogen causes nitrogenous pollution of water and land and contributes to the generation of nitrous oxide. One possible cause is the imbalanced provision of dietary substrates to the rumen micro-organisms. Deamination of amino acids by ammonia-producing bacteria liberates ammonia which can be assimilated by the rumen bacteria and used for microbial protein synthesis. However, when carbohydrate is limiting, microbial growth is slow, meaning low demand for ammonia for microbial protein synthesis and excretion of the excess. Protein utilisation can therefore be improved by increasing the availability of readily fermentable sugars in forage or by making protein unavailable for proteolysis through complexing with plant secondary products. Alternatively, realisation that grazing cattle ingest living cells has led to the discovery that plant cells undergo endogenous, stress-mediated protein degradation due to the exposure to rumen conditions. This presents the opportunity to decrease the environmental impact of livestock farming by using decreased proteolysis as a selection tool for the development of improved pasture grass varieties.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)613-620
Number of pages8
JournalProceedings of the Nutrition Society
Issue number4
Early online date04 Aug 2010
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2010
EventThe Winter Meeting of the Nutrition Society - Reading, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
Duration: 15 Dec 200915 Dec 2009


  • Ruminant
  • Protein
  • Nitrogen
  • Methane
  • Grass
  • Clover
  • Forage


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