“In 1977, our company split the grain maize breeding program from the silage maize breeding program and in 1997, we started the LG Animal Nutrition concept, dedicated to studying maize varieties and their applications and effects for animals. We have dedicated research on fibre digestibility for example, which taught us that variability of digestibility is linked to the content and the organisation of the cell wall structure.
Digestibility of cell walls in turn depends on the possibility for ruminal cellulolytic bacteria to access digestible fibres. But we also look closely at starch digestibility, dry matter content at harvest and the fermenting/ensiling period amongst others. Starch digestibility is a complicated topic. There is a big genetic variability of Starch Rumen Degradability (SRD) so it is important to be able to characterise our varieties,” according to Delord. To test the quality of the maize silage, Limagrain uses online NIRS in the silage chopper to measure the yield, energy content, composition (starch, protein, energy and NDF) and the digestibility. This has generated a wealth of data over the last years. With this data, the breeding company can predict the nutrient levels of the plant more easily. “We analyse around 200,000 samples per year,” explains Delord.
Economic benefit for the farmer
Thanks to improvements made in the last few years, and use of new tools and methods, NDF digestibility can get very close to bm3 hybrids,” says Delord. Brown midrib (BM) hybrids have a naturally occurring gene that reduces lignin in the cornstalk, hence improving the fibre digestibility. The bm3 mutation is known to have the highest digestibility over other bm mutations. “A higher digestibility can save the dairy farmer feed costs, as less feed is needed to produce the milk. This is very important as milk prices are low in Europe,” adds Delord.
“Within the LGAN concept, our ambition is to continue to provide the best maize genetics for the dairy farmers and the cattle producers. Our research keeps on breeding high yielding and high quality (digestibility and energy content) varieties. We believe that in the current challenging economic situation, good quality forages will help the farmers to improve their profitability thanks to a better feed efficiency. Also we will continue to assist farmers with different services (LG LAB portable NIRS, decision support tool to predict maize silage harvest date) to help them to produce good quality forages and while remaining competitive. Maize silage will continue to be a really cost-effective forage for producing milk in Europe. This is our commitment through the LGAN approach,” concludes Delord.