Nutrient content, in vitro ruminal fermentation characteristics and methane reduction potential of tropical tannin-containing leaves



BACKGROUND: Plant tannins as rumen modifiers are better than chemicals or antibiotic-based modifiers since these compounds are natural products which are environmentally friendly and therefore have a better acceptance with regard to feed safety issues. Tropical plants containing phenols such as tannins were found to suppress or eliminate protozoa from the rumen and reduce methane and ammonia production. The screening of these plants is an important step in the identification of new compounds and feed additives which might contribute to mitigate rumen methanogenesis. The present study was carried out to determine the efficacy of tannins from tropical tree leaves for their methane reduction properties.

RESULTS: Activity of tannins, as represented by the increase in gas volume with the addition of polyethylene glycol (PEG)-6000 as a tannin binder (tannin bioassay) was highest in Ficus bengalensis (555%), followed by Azardirachta indica (78.5%). PEG addition did not alter (P > 0.05) methane percentage in Ficus racemosa, Glyricidia maculata, Leucena leucocephala, Morus alba and Semaroba glauca, confirming that tannins in these samples did not affect methanogenesis. The increase (P < 0.05) in protozoa population with PEG was maximal in Ficus religiosa (50), followed by Moringa oleifera (31.2), Azardirachta indica (29.9) and Semaroba glauca (27.5). There was no change (P > 0.05) in the protozoa population in Autocarpus integrifolia, Ficus bengalensis, Jatropha curcus, Morus alba and Sesbania grandiflora, demonstrating that methane reduction observed in these samples per se was not due to defaunation effect of the tannin. The increase in total volatile fatty acid concentration in samples with PEG ranged from 0.6% to > 70%. The highest increase (%) in NH3-N was recorded in Azardirachta indica (67.4), followed by Ficus mysoriensis (35.7) and Semaroba glauca (32.6) leaves, reflecting strong protein binding properties of tannin.

CONCLUSION: The results of our study established that in vitro methanogenesis was not essentially related to the density of protozoa population. Tropical tree leaves containing tannins such as Autocarpus integrifolia, Jatropha curcus and Sesbania grandiflora have the potential to suppress methanogenesis. Therefore tannins contained in these plants could be of interest in the development of new additives in ruminant nutrition. Copyright © 2012 Society of Chemical Industry