The combined effects of lucerne (Medicago sativa L.) extract supplementation and ammonia treatment of rice straw (Oryza sativa, variety Thaibonnet) on the ruminal digestion of cell wall components were investigated in six continuous culture systems using a randomised complete block design. Data were fitted to second-order polynomial models. Untreated rice straw had higher contents of ash-free cell wall residues (CWR; 763 v. 687 g/kg dry matter (DM)) and non-cellulosic sugars (191 v. 166 g/kg DM) than treated rice straw. Ammoniation preferentially removed xylose, which resulted in a lower xylose-to-arabinose ratio (5.1 v. 5.8). In absence of lucerne supplementation and ammoniation, degradability coefficients were 0.54, 0.46, 0.58, 0.54, 0.42 and 0.60 for cellulose–glucose, xylose, arabinose, galactose, mannose and uronic acids, respectively. Both factors had significant effects on the microbial degradation of structural polysaccharides. With lucerne extract at an optimal level, ammonia treatment increased ash-free cell wall degradation by more than 10%. The degradability coefficients were increased by ammoniation without any significant interaction with lucerne extract, except for glucose, whose degradability was mostly influenced by lucerne extract in a curvilinear way. The comparison of regression coefficients in cell wall and CWR models suggested that ammoniation improved the degradabilities of xylose, galactose and mannose by partly solubilising the corresponding hemicelluloses and by improving the susceptibility of the remaining fraction to microbial attack, whereas it increased the degradability of arabinose only by favouring microbial attack.