Browsing Journal of Range Management, Volume 54, Number 4 (July 2001) by Subjects
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Herbivore response to anti-quality factors in foragesPlants possess a wide variety of compounds and growth forms that are termed "anti-quality" factors because they reduce forage value and deter grazing. Anti-quality attributes can reduce a plant's digestible nutrients and energy or yield toxic effects. Herbivores possess several adaptive mechanisms to lessen the impacts of anti-quality factors. First, herbivores graze selectively to limit consumption of potentially harmful plant compounds. Grazing animals rely on a sophisticated system to detect plant nutritional value or toxicity by relating the flavor of a plant to its positive or negative digestive consequences. Diet selection skills are enhanced by adaptive intake patterns that limit the deleterious effects of plant allelochemicals; these include cautious sampling of sample new foods, consuming a varied diet, and eating plants in a cyclic, intermittent, or carefully regulated fashion. Second, grazing animals possess internal systems that detoxify or tolerate ingested phytotoxins. Animals may eject toxic plant material quickly after ingestion, secrete substances in the mouth or gut to render allelochemicals inert, rely on rumen microbes to detoxify allelochemicals, absorb phytochemicals from the gut and detoxified them in body tissues, or develop a tolerance to the toxic effects of plant allelochemicals. Understanding the behavioral and metabolic abilities of herbivores suggests several livestock management practices to help animals contend with plant anti-quality characteristics. These practices include offering animals proper early life experiences, selecting the appropriate livestock species and individuals, breeding animals with desired attributes, and offering nutritional or pharmaceutical products to aid in digestion and detoxification.
Lignin and fiber digestionLignin is a polymer formed from monolignols derived from the phenylpropanoid pathway in vascular plants. It is deposited in the cell walls of plants as part of the process of cell maturation. Lignin is considered an anti-quality component in forages because of its negative impact on the nutritional availability of plant fiber. Lignin interferes with the digestion of cell-wall polysaccharides by acting as a physical barrier to microbial enzymes. Lignification therefore has a direct and often important impact on the digestible energy (DE) value of the forage. There are a number of plant-related factors that affect lignification in individual plants and plant communities. Lignification is under genetic control and there are considerable differences in lignin concentration and composition among species and even genotypes within species. Genetic differences in lignification are first expressed at the cellular level and are affected by biochemical and physiological activities of the cell. As cells differentiate, differences in lignification occur depending on the tissues and organs being developed. Lignification tends to be most intense in structural tissues such as xylem and sclerenchyma. Plant organs containing high concentrations of these tissues, such as stems, are less digestible than those containing lower concentrations. The relative proportion of lignified tissues and organs typically increases as plants mature so there is often a negative relationship between digestibility and maturity. All of these plant processes respond to environmental factors that can affect the extent and impact of lignification. Temperature, soil moisture, light, and soil fertility can have either direct or indirect effects on lignification. The most useful management practices for minimizing the negative effects of lignification are manipulation of the plant community such that it contains more desirable species and harvest management to maintain plants in a vegetative stage of development.