Responses of Lotus corniculatus to environmental change 4: Root carbohydrate levels at defoliation and regrowth climatic conditions are major drivers of phenolic content and forage quality

Phillip Morris, Eunice Carter, Barbara Hauck, John-Wayne Hughes, Gordon Allison, Michael Kyriacos Theodorou

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Abstract

Main conclusion: Differential accumulation of root carbohydrates at defoliation have a higher impact than regrowth environmental conditions on the phenolic content and feed quality of the perennial forage legume Lotus corniculatus. Abstract: The unpredictable nature of proanthocyanidin (condensed tannin) accumulation in regrowth vegetation of the perennial forage legume Lotus corniculatus represents a dilemma to the wider use of this species in agriculture, and a potential problem in the nutritional ecology of some terrestrial herbivores, as variable condensed tannin levels can result in either beneficial or detrimental effects on animal nutrition. However, the source of this variation has not been extensively explored. High levels of carbon allocation to roots during low-temperature preconditioning of clonal plants were found to significantly increase condensed tannin and flavonol levels in regrowth foliage, while low levels of carbon allocation to roots during periods of high-temperature preconditioning significantly decreased condensed tannin and flavonol levels. Phenolic accumulation and tissue digestibility were also differentially affected by regrowth of these defoliated plants at high CO 2 concentrations and by drought. Lower rates of digestion generally paralleled increases in tannin levels in regrowth leaves under the different environmental conditions, with rates of digestion falling in high tannin plants, despite correspondingly higher levels of leaf carbohydrates. Differential accumulation of root carbohydrates between seasons and years may therefore explain some of the variability found in the nutritional quality of the forage of this species.

Original languageEnglish
Article number38
Pages (from-to)1-11
Number of pages11
JournalPlanta
Volume253
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 19 Jan 2021

Keywords

  • Carbon allocation
  • Climate change
  • CO2
  • Condensed tannins
  • Drought
  • Digestibility
  • Flavonoids
  • Growth temperature
  • Lignin
  • CO
  • Carbohydrates/analysis
  • Climate
  • Nutritive Value
  • Tannins/metabolism
  • Lotus/physiology
  • Plant Roots/chemistry
  • Plant Leaves/chemistry

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