Crop and Pasture Science Crop and Pasture Science Society
Plant sciences, sustainable farming systems and food quality

Losses of the digestible components of annual ryegrass (Lolium rigidum Gaudin) during senescence

RA Ballard, RJ Simpson and GR Pearce

Australian Journal of Agricultural Research 41(4) 719 - 731
Published: 1990


Changes in the digestibility and chemical composition of a L. rigidum cv. Wimmera sward sown in May, 1985 were measured from 21 d pre-anthesis (9 Oct.) until 69 d after anthesis (7 Jan.) when the plants were dead. Max. yield of 11.7 t DM/ha was reached 8 d pre-anthesis. The in vitro DM digestibility (IVDMD) of whole plants decreased from 58% at anthesis to 36% 69 d after anthesis. This was associated with a decrease in the IVDMD of stem, leaf blades and sheaths. In the 3rd stem internode, which was considered representative of the stem, the loss of digestible yield was due to loss of DM soluble in neutral detergent (NDS). The NDS consisted mainly of non-structural carbohydrates. Similar losses of NDS contributed to loss of digestibility in the uppermost leaf blade and leaf sheath. The digestibility of NDS was generally 80-95% but in the leaf blade this declined to 45% as NDS was mobilized during leaf senescence. NDF digestibility of the stem declined from 35% at anthesis to 19% when dead; corresponding values for the uppermost leaf blade were 83 and 54%, resp., and for the leaf sheath 46 and 37%, resp. These characteristics of a senescing grass sward are discussed in relation to options for improving digestibility of dead grass pastures.

© CSIRO 1990

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