Anti-parasitic effects of Birdsfoot Trefoil

URI Agronomy Farm, May 2014

One of the most promising findings in the last 15 years in the search for alternative GIN parasite control has been the discovery that the consumption of specific forages containing condensed tannins (CT) has been effective in suppressing GIN infection in sheep and goats. Condensed tannins (CT), also called proanthocyanidins, are naturally occurring plant compounds that significantly affect the nutritional value of forage by forming complexes with proteins, carbohydrates and minerals.

Birdsfoot trefoil (Lotus corniculatus L.) has recently been identified as a promising CT forage well suited to Northeast growing conditions.  It is a legume that minimizes bloat, improves protein uptake and has other environmental benefits in addition to possible anti-parasitic effects.  Other promising CT legume forages include Sanfoin (more suited to western U.S.) and Sericea lespedeza (does not over-winter well in colder climates).

URI Research

URI is participating in the following joint research:

1)     Evaluate birdsfoot trefoil cultivars to assess agronomic characteristics and condensed tannin contents.  Identify which condensed tannins are critical for anti-parasitic activity and characterize the structure/function relationship of the condensed tannin profiles.

2)     Assess the effects of condensed tannin extracts on larval and adult nematodes in vitro and in vivo, and measure key immune responses of the host animal.

3)     Evaluate animal health and economic outcomes of pasture mixes with tannin-containing birdsfoot trefoil for suppression of gastrointestinal nematode parasites.

Lead URI researchers:

 Rebecca Brown, Ph.D. –
Dept. Plant Sciences and Entomology

 Katherine Petersson, Ph.D. –
Dept. Fisheries, Animal and Veterinary Sciences

Click here to learn more about this project and the resources that are being generated and distributed throughout the Northeast Region.

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