The effect of harvest date and inoculation on the yield, fermentation characteristics and feeding value of forage pea and field bean silages

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Two experiments describe the ensiling potential of whole-crop forage peas (Pisum sativum) and field beans (Vicia faba). In Experiment 1, forage peas (cv. Magnus) and field beans (cv. Mayo) were harvested at 10, 12 and 14 weeks after sowing, and ensiled in 10 kg mini-silos either untreated or treated with an inoculant (Lactobacillus plantarum). In terms of yield and ensiling potential, the optimum growth stage for harvesting forage peas occurred at 12 weeks of growth. In contrast, delaying the harvest of field beans until 14 weeks gave the highest yields of dry matter (DM) and crude protein (CP). Changes in crop maturity had little effect on the chemical composition of the fresh forages, but between-harvest date differences were observed in the DM, ammonia-N, CP, water-soluble carbohydrates (WSC), acid-detergent fibre (ADF), neutral-detergent fibre (NDF), lactic acid and volatile fatty acids (VFA) concentrations and pH of the corresponding silages. Fermentation was improved by applying an inoculant. In Experiment 2, forage peas and field beans were harvested at 14 weeks after sowing and ensiled as round-bale silage, either untreated or treated with an inoculant. The yields of the crops were similar, and the only difference in the chemical composition of the wilted forages was a higher CP concentration in the field beans. However, after the ensiling process was complete, the forage pea silages were found to have significantly higher DM, WSC, starch and butyric acid concentrations compared with the field bean silages, and lower ammonia-N, CP, ADF, acetic acid and lactic acid concentrations. Inoculation was found to increase the lactic acid concentration and reduce the pH and ammonia-N and acetic acid concentrations of the silages. Each of the silages produced in Experiment 2 was offered to six Suffolk crossbred wether lambs, aged 10 months. Voluntary DM intakes were similar on all treatments, despite the apparent digestibility of the forage pea silages being significantly higher than that of the field bean silages. Nitrogen retention was higher for lambs offered forage pea silage. Application of an inoculant was found to have a negative effect on the amount of N retained, indicating the necessity for more detailed investigations into proteolytic activity within these crops during the fermentation process.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)218-230
Number of pages13
JournalGrass and Forage Science
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2001


  • Growth stage
  • Nutritive value
  • Pulses
  • Silage additive
  • Whole-cropping


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