Food Structure


L. H. Harbers


Study of the patterns of ruminal digestion of forages enhances the nutritional knowledge of how specific plant tissues are digested and adds its own dimension by characterizing the specific cells and the complex interactions of ruminal microflora with those tissues. A common pattern of digestibility exists for mono- and dicotyledon leaves: mesophyll and phloem are degraded readily, and sclerenchyma slowly, whereas cuticle and the remaining vascular tissues are rarely utilized . Digestion of stems is limited to parenchymal tissues in monocotyledons and to cortex and parenchyma in dicotyledons. Epidermal silica and cuticle are undigestible and restrict microbial entrance. Calcium oxalate crystals in legumes are utilized poorly by animals, suggesting the need for further attention to structure in feedstuff analyses. Future studies by animal scientists on plant utilization and by agronomists in genetics should include structural considerations along with the well recognized experimental procedures.

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