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Breeding legumes for livestock feed (biomass) as well as human food (grain)

Cowpea fodder

Cowpea fodder bundles stacked in Niger for livestock feed (photo credit: ILRI).

‘Of the many virtues of grain legumes, one is little recognized. Visitors to the livestock fodder markets of West Africa are always surprised to see groundnut and cowpea haulms (stalks and stems of legume plants) sold at prices that exceed that of cereal grains and not infrequently even that of groundnut and cowpea seeds, particularly during periods when sheep keepers are fattening their animal for slaughter at festivities such as Tabaski.

‘In fact, the haulms of these legumes have proved excellent animal fodder of such high palatability that sheep can gain liveweight quicker than when fed many forage grasses planted for that purpose. In these times of increasing fodder demand fueled by the on-going ‘livestock revolution’, as well as decreasing land and water resources, producing good-quality fodder for animal stock from the same land and water as that used to grow food crops becomes increasingly important.

‘Skeptical breeders of legume plants for human consumption might worry about the trade-offs in breeding for both human and livestock consumption, as well as the feasibility of such breeding and the overall challenges of trait extensions and proliferations in already complex breeding environments. Fortunately, several collaborative studies conducted by ICRISAT, IITA and ILRI shed light on these concerns. . . .’

Read the whole article by ILRI scientist Michael Blümmel, flagship leader for Feeds and Forages, on the website of the CGIAR Research Program on Grain Legumes: High haulm biomass and palatability for livestock feed add value to grain legumes, 3 Nov 2014.

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