How Planting Configuration Influences Plant Secondary Metabolites and Total N in Tall Fescue (Festuca Arundinacea Schreb.), Alfalfa (Medicago Sativa L.) and Birsfoot Trefoil (Lotus Corniculatus L.): Implications for Grazing Management

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Grass and Forage Science






Wiley-Blackwell Publishing Ltd.

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Theories suggest that incorporating alfalfa (Medicago sativa L.; Alf) or birdsfoot trefoil (Lotus corniculatus L.; BFT) into endophyte‐infected tall fescue (Festuca arundinaceas Schreb.; E+TF) pasturelands may improve livestock production. We investigated how planting configuration might influence plant secondary metabolites (PSM) and nitrogen concentration in these forages. Total nitrogen (N), in addition to condensed tannins (CT), saponins and ergovaline (EV), was compared in BFT, Alf and E+TF, respectively, when forages grew in monocultures and all possible two‐way “mixtures” using a block design with repeated measures in three blocks. Ergovaline (p < .01) and N (p < .001) concentrations in E+TF were greater when growing adjacent to legumes than when growing in monoculture, and N and EV concentrations in E+TF were positively correlated (r = .51; p = .001). No differences in saponins or CT were found when Alf or BFT grew in monoculture or in two‐way mixtures (p > .10). We conducted an in vitro trial to determine whether CT or saponins isolated from BFT and Alf, respectively, would bind to EV in water. Ergovaline bound to saponins to a greater extent (39%; SE = 0.25) than CT (5.1%; SE = 5.13; p < .05). Because EV was lower in E+TF monocultures than in E+TF–legume mixtures, and because CT and saponins may form complexes with EV which may alleviate fescue toxicosis, animals may benefit from systems which allow them to graze monoculture patches of E+TF and Alf or BFT rather than grass–legume mixtures.

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