The main objective of the project is to investigate the possibility to preserve the fungi–treated high lignin-containing waste products (e.g. cereal straw, bagasse, oil palm fronds, peanuts hulls) through ensiling. This project is part of the research programme ‘Food for thought, thought for food: More meat and milk from straw’ and lead by dr. John Cone (Animal Nutrition Group, Wageningen University) and dr. Anton Sonnenberg (Laboratory of Plant Breeding, Wageningen University).
In the future, the trend of an increasing number of animal feed ingredients competing with food for humans and bio-fuels production will be more prominent. Therefore, lignocellulosic biomass produced in the process of agricultural, horticulture and the human food supply chain are an attractive feedstock for animal nutrition, due to their renewable and abundant character.
In many developing countries, farmers feed low quality agricultural by-products to ruminant animal (e.g. cows, sheep and goats), resulting in a low performance, low milk production and growth of the animals. The main limiting factor for the use of these type of feedstuffs and wastes as animal feeds is the high content of lignin, preventing the valuable carbohydrates (hemicellulose and cellulose) to be utilized by the microbes in the rumen.
Several methods have been explored to degrade or modify lignin in lignocellulosic biomass before, like physical and chemical treatments. In contrast, using fungi to improve the nutritional value of agricultural waste products has been considered as more environmentally friendly and economically viable. But the problem is that some agriculture by-products cannot be produced all the year round in many countries, so fungi-treated materials need to be preserved in order to feed animals for a prolonged period. In this project, methodologies and conditions of ensiling of those agricultural by-products will be investigated.
Lei Mao started her PhD project in October 2014. She obtained her MSc degree of Animal Nutrition and Feed Science from Sichuan Agriculture University, China. She is now working in Animal Nutrition Group, Department of Animal Science.