Project Title: Growth of birdsfoot trefoil (Lotus corniculatus) cultivars over time
Mentor: Katherine Petersson
Growth of birdsfoot trefoil (Lotus corniculatus) cultivars over time
Shelby Ashworth1,3, Sarah Ferguson2, 2Rebecca Brown2, Katherine Petersson3
1Coastal Fellow, 2Department of Plant Sciences,
3Department of Fisheries, Animal & Veterinary Science
Anthelmintic resistance in gastrointestinal nematodes is a problem of increasing importance in small ruminant production. In the southern United States, sericea lespedeza, a forage with high levels of condensed tannins, has demonstrated efficacy as an alternative method of internal parasite control in sheep and goats by reducing parasite egg counts in these livestock. However, in the northern states,sericea lespedeza is unable to thrive, shifting the focus to another high condensed tannin plant, Lotus corniculatus, or birdsfoot trefoil. The objective of this study is to assess the agronomic performance of cultivars of birdsfoot trefoil that vary in condensed tannin content. Methods: Fifty-four cultivars of birdsfoot trefoil, previously established in the greenhouse at URI in the winter of 2013 and transplanted into the field in June of 2013 in groups of 20 plants, were used for this study. The agronomic performance of three of the 20 plants from each of the 54 accessions was monitored for 14 weeks, beginning August 6, 2014 and ending on November 4, 2014. Each week height and width measurements of the same plants were taken and plant volume determined. Twenty-nine cultivars, for which condensed tannin concentrations were available, were selected and sorted into categories of high and low tannin content and were examined for growth trends. The results showed that 32% of the high tannin accessions and 64% of the low tannin accessions were significantly impacted by wildlife such as deer and rabbits. High tannin varieties also maintained larger volumes than low tannin varieties, suggesting that high tannin cultivars are less prone to be grazed on by wildlife, as well as superior in agronomic performance.