This week, the International Conference on Pulses for Health, Nutrition and Sustainable Agriculture in Drylands takes place in Morocco. ILRI and ICARDA scientists from the Livestock and Fish program are sharing experiences on the opportunities and limitations of multidimensional crop improvement in grain legumes to support increased productivity in mixed crop-livestock systems.
While rising demand for animal-source food (ASF) in emerging and developing countries increases feed demand, the shrinking natural resources base, particularly arable land and water limit feed production.
Crop residues as feed resources have thus become more important and more valuable; in some cases the haulms are more valuable than the grains. Crop breeders and livestock nutritionists are exploring opportunities and limitations to improve crop residue quantity and fodder quality at source through multidimensional crop improvement.
The presentation presents findings on crop species and crop cultivar variations in grain and haulm yield, haulm fodder quality and possible trade-offs between traits in groundnut (Arachis hypogaea l.), cowpea (Vigna unguiculata), chickpea (Cicer arietinum), lentils (Lens culinaris) and faba bean (Vicia faba).
In all crops investigated, livestock nutritionally-significant cultivar variations were observed in laboratory fodder quality traits such as protein, neutral (NDF) and acid (ADF) detergent fiber, acid (ADL) detergent lignin, in vitro organic matter digestibility (IVOMD) and metabolizable energy (ME). Trade-offs between haulm traits and grain traits were either absent or manageable.
The laboratory results on nutritional quality need to be further validated through feeding experiments to test effects on nutrient intake and animal performance.
The choice of legume cultivars with superior feed traits will have immense implication for the overall productivity of mixed crop-livestock systems. There is also suggestive anecdotal evidence that cultivars superior in grain yield and haulm yield and haulm fodder quality create higher farmer demand and have higher adoption rates than cultivars improved solely for grain yield.