Assessing the Potential of Diverse Forage Mixtures to Reduce Enteric Methane Emissions In Vitro
Methane emissions from ruminants are a major contributor to agricultural greenhouse gas emissions. Thus, eight different forage species were combined in binary mixtures with Lolium perenne in increasing proportions, in vitro, to determine their methane reduction potential in ruminants. Species were sampled in two consecutive years where possible. The aims were: a) to determine if mixtures with specific forages, particularly those rich in plant specialized metabolites (PSM), can reduce methane emissions compared to ryegrass monocultures, b) to identify whether there is a linear-dose effect relationship in methane emissions from the legume or herb addition, and c) whether these effects are maintained across sampling years. Results showed that all dicot species studied, including the non-tannin-containing species, reduced methane production. The tannin-rich species, Sanguisorba minor and Lotus pedunculatus, showed the greatest methane reduction potential of up to 33%. Due to concomitant reductions in the forage digestibility, Cichorium intybus yielded the lowest methane emissions per digestible forage unit. Contrary to total gas production, methane production was less predictable, with a tendency for the lowest methane production being obtained with a 67.5% share of the legume or herb partner species. Thus, linear increments in the partner species share did not result in linear changes in methane concentration. The methane reduction potential differed across sampling years, but the species ranking in methane concentration was stable.