Fats and oils are an important component of livestock diets, contributing a significant input of energy into the productive requirements of animals that consume them. Beyond delivering basic energy requirements for meat and milk production, fatty acids, and more importantly the fatty acid profile of lipids in livestock feed can influence rumen function and the quality of animal products used for human food. An opportunity has been identified to improve total fatty acid content, in particular the polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA) fraction, which will enable the next generation of IBERS high performance ryegrass varieties to provide benefits to UK agriculture and the environment, by potentially reducing enteric methane emissions and increasing ruminant production. It will also potentially result in human health benefits with more forage-derived PUFA being present in meat and milk.
The central objective of this project is to improve the fatty acid content of perennial ryegrass by applying state-of-the-art genomics tools and resources and high throughput phenotyping methodologies and to quantify the impact of modified fatty acid content on animal production, supply of beneficial omega-3 fatty acids to the animal and greenhouse gas emissions (GHG). The project addresses some of the major challenges facing UK agriculture in a world that is undergoing climate change. The UK’s climate favours grassland-based livestock production which is charged with the challenging target of increasing production whilst reducing inputs at a range of levels.
· This 5 year project is funded by BBSRC, Germinal Holdings and HCC
· The work is being carried out at IBERS, Aberystwyth University