Lignin Constituents and Cell-Wall Digestibility of Grass and Legume Stems
- D. R. Buxton and
- J. R. Russell
Concentration and chemical constituents of lignin are factors that may influence cell-wall (CW) digestibility of forages. This study was conducted to determine the apparent effect of lignin concentration on extent of CW digestion in immature and mature stems of grasses and legumes and to estimate and relate monomeric products of saponification and nitrobenzene oxidation of lignin to CW digestion. The basal 150 mm of stem from cultivars of field-grown alfalfa (Medicago sativa L.), birdsfoot trefoil (Lotus corniculatus L.), smooth bromegrass (Bromus inermis Leyss.), orchardgrass (Dactylis glomerata L.), and red clover (Trifolium pratense L.) were harvested during spring growth. Laboratory evaluations included CW digestibility after 72 h of fermentation, neutral-detergent fiber (to estimate CW concentration), permanganate lignin, alkali-labile phenolic acids in CW, and nitrobenzene oxidation products (NBO). The apparent inhibition of CW digestion by lignin was 62% greater in grasses than in legumes. In grass stems, ferulic acid was positively correlated with arabinose [r = 0.58 (arabinose determined for another study)], whereas p-coumaric acid was positively associated with lignin (r 0.52). The syringaldehyde proportion in NBO increased 61% in grasses and 31% in legumes with stem maturity. The NBO as a proportion of lignin was closely related to CW digestion (r = −0.86) when both grasses and legumes were correlated. The syringaldehyde proportion in NBO was closely related to CW digestion in grass stems (r = −0.93), but not in the legumes (r = −0.23). Thus, there was close agreement between lignin concentration and CW digestibility within grass and legume stems, and the results indicate lignin chemical constituents can be important in accounting for differences in inhibition to digestion between grass and legume lignins.
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