Yield and nutritive value of timothy as affected by temperature, photoperiod and time of harvest

  • Bertrand A
  • Tremblay G
  • Pelletier S
 et al. 
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Scenarios of global climate change forecast an increase in air temperature of 3°C over the next 100 years in eastern Canada. Growth and nutritive value of cool-season grasses are known to be affected by air temperature. It is also believed that grasses grown at high latitude have a greater nutritive value. The objectives of this study were to assess the effect of four combinations of day/night temperature and photoperiod (15 h–17/5°C; 15 h–22/10°C; 15 h–28/15°C; and 17 h-17/5°C) on dry-matter (DM) yield, in vitro true DM digestibility (IVTD), in vitro digestibility of neutral-detergent fibre (NDF), and concentrations of NDF, acid-detergent fibre (ADF), lignin, minerals and non-structural carbohydrates (NSC) in timothy grown under controlled conditions. Furthermore, herbage was harvested in the morning and in the afternoon to assess the impact of the time of harvest. The dietary cation–anion difference [DCAD = (K+ + Na+) − (Cl− + 0·6 S2−)] and the grass tetany index [GT index = K+/(Ca2+ + Mg2+)] were also calculated. Higher temperature regimes significantly decreased IVTD and digestibility of NDF but had a limited effect on concentrations of NDF, ADF and lignin. DM yield of herbage was less and the concentration of NSC was greater in timothy grown under a temperature regime of 28/15°C than the 17/5°C and 22/10°C regimes; this effect is mainly explained by a response to temperature stress. Values of DCAD and the GT index of herbage were also lower under the 28/15°C than the 17/5°C and 22/10°C regimes as a result of a decreased plant K concentration. Under the 17/5°C regime, an increase in 2 h of photoperiod resulted in increased DM yield, decreased concentrations of K, Ca, Mg, Cl and N, and an increased starch concentration; IVTD or digestibility of NDF were not affected, although lignin concentration was reduced. Harvesting timothy in the afternoon rather than in the morning resulted in higher NSC, mainly sucrose, concentrations, and decreased ADF and NDF concentrations. The forecasted increase in air temperature in eastern Canada over the next 100 years will result in lower yields and nutritive value of timothy.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Climate change
  • Dietary cation-anion difference
  • Digestibility
  • Grass tetany index
  • Mineral concentration
  • Non-structural carbohydrates
  • Phleum pratense L.

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