Service Communautaire d'Information sur la Recherche et le Développement - CORDIS

Final Activity Report Summary - HEALTHYHAY (The re-invention of sainfoin: an example of a novel resource for sustainable agriculture)

This EU network collected 362 sainfoin (Onobrychis viciifolia) accessions for a germplasm bank. It includes samples from many locations and wild type species with high agronomic value. Armenian frost- and drought-resistant accessions will be of particular interest for developing new sainfoin lines for northern and southern EU regions. Accessions were ranked for yield, disease and agronomic characteristics: 40 accessions in the UK and 8 in Spain showed most promise. Eastern European accessions showed agronomic superiority. Pure seeds were multiplied from 75 accessions and pre-breeding crossing trials started. SSR marker, PCR and AFLP analysis suggested that the Onobrychis taxonomy needs revision. Sainfoin accessions exhibited a wide range of enzyme activities, gene expression and flavonoid metabolism. Peroxidase activities proved surprisingly stable. Extracts and fractions containing well-defined polyphenol and tannin compositions were assessed for antiparasitic, proteolytic and methanogenic effects.

Genotype x environment effects generated large variations. Conservation changed polyphenol and tannin compositions, which depended on accessions, and could explain the nematicidal variability observed in hays and silages. The nutritive value was higher in fresh than conserved sainfoin. Silages had more undegraded protein and protein-bound tannins than fresh sainfoin. This was probably caused by peroxidase reactions during ensiling. Sainfoin regrowth had excellent nutritive value. Contrary to some reports, tannins in the regrowth had no effect on nitrogen retention and also no effect on the energy value. A new equation was extended to sainfoin and generated excellent predictions for organic matter digestibility of fresh legume forages. Accessions were ranked for compositional, nutritional and environmental parameters. Near-infrared spectroscopy gave good predictions of flowering dates, in vitro methane production, anthelmintic activities, chemical composition and digestibilities.

HEALTHYHAY identified six sainfoin accessions with most promise for reducing methane and concluded that sainfoin could reduce urinary nitrogen and methane emissions into the environment. Accessions were evaluated for anticoccidial and anthelmintic (nematicidal) properties. Three accessions inhibited oocyst sporulation in vitro. Sainfoin generated a slight reduction of faecal oocyst numbers from lambs in areas with high Eimeria incidence. Two accessions proved particularly effective in a larval migration inhibition assay for parasitic cattle nematodes. Sainfoin extracts also inhibited larval migration and penetration into mucosa by goat nematodes. A dose-dependent relationship was found between tannin concentrations and anthelmintic activity. Interestingly, several non-tannin polyphenols with anthelmintic activity were discovered. Activity was also affected by genotype x environment interactions. Feeding trials lowered female worm fecundity and faecal egg outputs. Several hay and silage samples showed better anthelmintic effects than fresh sainfoin.

This promising result demonstrates that sainfoin can be conserved for the lambing or kidding seasons, when parasitic nematodes pose the biggest threat. However, some hay and silages showed erratic results, which might be explained by peroxidase activities. The key message is that sainfoin contains a wide range of antiparasitic compounds. Further research will need to optimise sainfoin compositions. Screening tools were developed for analysis of enzymes, gene expression, flavonoids, tannins, larval inhibition; nearinfrared spectroscopy calibrations and molecular markers are now available. To conclude, HEALTHYHAY delivered novel results for a future sainfoin breeding programme.

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