1. The inhibitory effects of inorganic and organic sulphur-containing compounds, copper and tungsten on nitrate reduction by mixed rumen micro-organisms were investigated in two in vitro studies.
2. Coarsely strained rumen fluid from nitrate-adapted (Expt 1) or non-adapted (Expt 2) Suffolk Down wethers maintained on lucerne (Medicago sativa) cubes was used as an inoculum. In Expt 1, anaerobic incubation was carried out for 24 h for each medium supplemented with 10 mM-sodium nitrate and the following chemicals: 0, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8 and 10 mM-sodium sulphide, 1 and 10 mM-sodium sulphite, 1 and 10 mM-sodium sulphate, 1 and 10 mM-L-cysteine, 1 and 10 mM-DL-methionine, 1 mM-sodium tungstate and I mM-copper sulphate. In Expt 2, 1 and 10 mM-Na2S, 1 and 10 mM-L-cysteine, 1 mM-Na2WO4, and 1 mM-CuSO4 were added to incubation media to test for chemical inhibition of microbial reduction of nitrate.
3. In Expt 1, the amount of nitrite formed decreased with increasing concentration of sulphide-S added. The additions of L-cysteine, W and Cu suppressed nitrite formation in media from both nitrate-adapted and non-adapted sheep.
4. In contrast to the effects of sulphide, L-cysteine and W counteracted, to some degree, nitrate-induced reduction of volatile fatty acid (VFA) production. Addition of Cu to the media resulted in a further depression of VFA production.