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Effect of urea fertilization on biomass yield, chemical composition, in vitro rumen digestibility and fermentation characteristics of forage oat straw in Tibet of China

  • J. H. CUI (a1) (a2), H. J. YANG (a1), C. Q. YU (a3), S. BAI (a1), S. S. SONG (a2), T. T. WU (a1), W. SUN (a3), X. M. SHAO (a4) and L. S. JIANG (a5)...


The present study investigated the effects of different levels of urea nitrogen (N) fertilizer on nutrient accumulation, in vitro rumen gas production and fermentation characteristics of forage oat straw (FOS) from oats (Avena sativa L. ‘Qinghai 444’) grown in the Tibet region of China. Fertilizer, applied at seeding (day 1), stem elongation (days 52–54) and heading (days 63–67), increased plant height and prolonged the maturity stage of the plant by 4–11 days compared with the non-fertilized control. Oat plants were harvested at maturity at the node 3–4 cm above ground, and then separated into grains and FOS. Both FOS and grain yields increased quadratically with increasing N fertilization, and their theoretical maximums occurred at the N fertilizing rates of 439 and 385 kg/ha, respectively. Increases in N fertilization did not affect the hemicellulose content of FOS, but substantially promoted the accumulation of crude protein, cellulose and lignin, resulting in a decrease in the energy content available for metabolism. A 72-h incubation of FOS with rumen fluids from lactating cows showed that increasing N resulted in FOS that showed a slower fermentation rate, decreased in vitro dry matter disappearance and lower cumulative gas production, but unchanged fermentation gas composition. Nitrogen fertilization increased the final pH in culture fluids and decreased the microbial volatile fatty acid (VFA) production. The molar proportions of acetate and propionate were not affected, but molar propionate proportion decreased linearly with increasing urea fertilization, and consequently, the ratio of lipogenic (e.g., acetate and butyrate)-to-glucogenic acids (propionate) tended to increase. In brief, increasing urea N fertilization promoted the growth of forage oats and increased the biomass yield as well as the crude protein and cellulose content of FOS. Considering the negative effect of increased lignin content on nutrient digestibility and total VFA production, the suggested range of urea N fertilization is 156–363 kg N/ha for forage oats planted in Tibet to retain the nutritive value of FOS in the rumen.


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