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Effect of Ensiling and Rumen Digestion by Cattle on Weed Seed Viability

  • Robert E. Blackshaw (a1) and Lyle M. Rode (a1)

Abstract

Studies were conducted to determine the effect of ensiling and/or rumen digestion by cattle on the germination and viability of several common weed species. Seed survival of grass species subjected to ensiling and/or rumen digestion tended to be less than that of broadleaf species. Downy brome, foxtail barley, and barnyardgrass were nonviable after either ensiling for 8 weeks or rumen digestion for 24 h. Some green foxtail (17%) and wild oats (0 to 88%) seeds survived digestion in the rumen but were killed by the ensiling process. Varying percentages of seeds of kochia, redroot pigweed, common lambsquarters, wild buckwheat, round-leaved mallow, and field pennycress remained viable after ensiling (3 to 30%), rumen digestion (15 to 98%), and ensiling plus rumen digestion (2 to 19%). A time course study of rumen digestion indicated that loss of seed viability often was not a gradual process. With some species, there was an initial lag phase while degradation of the protective seed coat likely occurred, followed by a rapid decline in embryo viability. The diet fed to livestock appeared to affect viability losses caused by rumen digestion. Estimates of seed survival with varying rates of passage through the rumen due to differing ratios of grain to forage in the diet are presented.

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