Agroscope, Institute for Plant Production Sciences IPS, 1260 Nyon, Switzerland

Nutritive value of grassland plants: dry matter, crude protein and non-structural carbohydrates contents

Ten main grassland species were cultivated in pure stand in three experiments located at different altitude. During two years their chemical composition was regularly assessed from the beginning to the end of the growing period. The digestibility of the organic matter was also measured with different laboratory methods and in feeding trials with sheep. This first paper describes the experimental conditions and presents the results about dry matter (DM), crude protein (CP) and total non-structural carbohydrates (TNC) contents. The DM content of the grasses is always higher than that of legumes and herbs. The DM content of white clover and dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) is low and, contrary to that of other species, does not increase when the plants grow older. The range of the variations in the CP content of the different species is considerable: more than 150 g CP per kg DM at the beginning of ear emergence of cocksfoot. The decrease in the CP content during the first growth is stronger than during the subsequent growths and varies depending on the species. At the beginning of ear emergence of cocksfoot, ryegrasses contain almost three times more TNC than legumes.

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