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Alfalfa forage digestibility, quality and yield under future climate change scenarios vary with Sinorhizobium meliloti strain

Sanz-Sáez, Álvaro, Erice, Gorka, Aguirreolea, Jone, Muñoz, Fernando, Sánchez-Díaz, Manuel, Irigoyen, Juan José
Journal of plant physiology 2012 v.169 no.8 pp. 782-788
carbon dioxide, in vitro digestibility, acid detergent fiber, forage yield, Ensifer meliloti, alfalfa, climate change, crude protein, animal production, temperature
Elevated CO₂ may decrease alfalfa forage quality and in vitro digestibility through a drop in crude protein and an enhancement of fibre content. The aim of the present study was to analyse the effect of elevated CO₂, elevated temperature and Sinorhizobium meliloti strains (102F78, 102F34 and 1032 GMI) on alfalfa yield, forage quality and in vitro dry matter digestibility. This objective is in line with the selection of S. meliloti strains in order to maintain high forage yield and quality under future climate conditions. Plants inoculated with the 102F34 strain showed more DM production than those inoculated with 1032GMI; however, these strains did not show significant differences with 102F78 plants. Neutral or acid detergent fibres were not enhanced in plants inoculated with the 102F34 strain under elevated CO₂ or temperature and hence, in vitro dry matter digestibility was unaffected. Crude protein content, an indicator of forage quality, was negatively related to shoot yield. Plants inoculated with 102F78 showed a similar shoot yield to those inoculated with 102F34, but had higher crude protein content at elevated CO₂ and temperature. Under these climate change conditions, 102F78 inoculated plants produced higher quality forage. However, the higher digestibility of plants inoculated with the 102F34 strain under any CO₂ or temperature conditions makes them more suitable for growing under climate change conditions. In general, elevated CO₂ in combination with high temperature (Climate Change scenario) reduced IVDMD and CP content and enhanced fibre content, which means that animal production will be negatively affected.