The aim of the project is to investigate the structure and components of cell walls of maize stover to find factors leading to low degradability of maize stover. The results may contribute to plant breeding to develop new maize cultivars with high degradability and make full use of maize stover in the dairy industry. This project is financed by the Sino-Dutch Dairy Development Centre (SDDDC), a collaboration between Wageningen UR, Friesland Campina and the Chinese Agricultural University in Beijing (China).
Maize is widely used and in many parts of the world the crops are harvested for human consumption. The residue, the maize stover, contains much cell walls and is often regarded as waste because and burned because of its low degradability. However, maize stover still contains a high energy content and nutritional value. If it can be fully used, maize stover can be a very valuable feed for ruminants.
Much work has been done over the past 50 years and has shown the lignin content in maize stover to be a limiting factor resulting in low rumen degradability. However, the degradability of maize stover varies between different cultivars and can also be the same between maize cultivars with a similar lignin content. A preliminary study shows that the chemical composition of lignin may be more important than the quantity of lignin in determining cell wall degradability. As such the latter will be further investigated within this project. Applying this knowledge can improve the nutritional value of maize stover and minimize the cost of feedstuffs.
Yuan He obtained both his BSc and MSc degrees in Animal Science at China Agricultural University.