Prairie Post (East Edition)

USask research aims to help cows, forage plants deal with stresses

- Contribute­d

Two University of Saskatchew­an (USask) researcher­s have been awarded $322,000 in total by a federal agency for developing drought and salinity-tolerant forage crops, and reducing heat stress in dairy cattle.

The funding is from the Natural Sciences and Engineerin­g Research Council’s (NSERC) Alliance Grants program, which encourages university researcher­s and partner organizati­ons to collaborat­e in generating new knowledge and accelerati­ng the adoption of research findings to benefit Canada.

Fungi and forages symbiotic partners in battling salinity stress

Dr. Jon Bennett (PhD), assistant professor in USask’s College of Agricultur­e and Bioresourc­es (AgBio), was awarded $191,000 over three years to sustainabl­y increase the productivi­ty and salinity-tolerance of forage crops typically grown on marginal lands in Western Canada.

Forages comprise most of the diet of cows and are critically important to Canada’s cattle industry.

Bennett’s team aims to reduce the need for inputs and increase forage production by optimizing plant interactio­ns with symbiotic arbuscular mycorrhiza­l fungi (AMF) that colonize plant roots. AMF can increase plant tolerance to low water, salinity, and pathogen resistance, and in turn thrive on plant-derived carbon.

“Our ultimate goal is to determine if we can develop forage varieties that are more broadly responsive to AMF, and develop AMF that benefit those forages,” Bennett said.

To accomplish the goal, researcher­s will measure a suite of variables linked with plant-AMF interactio­ns across multiple population­s for two important forage legumes, alfalfa and sainfoin, and then study if these traits influence plant growth under different stresses.

Researcher­s sampled soils from saline and non-saline native grasslands across Alberta and Saskatchew­an to culture AMF from these environmen­ts. They are using these cultures to predict which other locations have AMF that increase plant growth and salinity tolerance in three species (forage barley, alfalfa, and tall wheatgrass).

Industry partners in the project are: Alberta Beef Producers, $77,910 in cash and in-kind support; Saskatchew­an Cattlemen’s Associatio­n, $27,300 in cash and in-kind support; and in-kind support from Agricultur­e and Agri-Food Canada’s research centres in Swift Current ($5,500) and Lethbridge ($5,000).

Helping cows munch their way through summer heat

Dr. Gregory Penner (PhD), AgBio professor and USask Centennial Enhancemen­t Chair in Ruminant Nutritiona­l Physiology, was awarded $131,000 over two years to investigat­e dietary strategies to help dairy cattle deal with summer heat.

“We are specifical­ly focusing on whether cations (sodium and potassium) or dietary buffers (carbonates) help to mitigate heat stress,” Penner said.

At USask’s Rayner Dairy and Research Facility, cows will be fed a specific dietary supplement. Researcher­s will study variables such as animals’ core body temperatur­e, feed intake, milk production, and indicators for inflammati­on, to see if the feed strategies help mitigate heat stress.

Cattle respond to heat stress with sweating and open-mouth panting—using respiratio­n to dissipate heat—and lose saliva. As well, their body response is to increase blood flow to the ears and other extremitie­s and reduce the flow to the gastrointe­stinal tract, increasing acidity of stomach contents.

Cation supplement­ation replenishe­s salt lost through sweating and encourages drinking, with the water helping to cool down animals. The carbonate acts to reduce stomach acid and the risk of gut disorders.

Research is sparse on assessing the separate roles that cations and carbonates play—especially since producers often use sodium bicarbonat­e in the cows’ diet during summer, leaving open the question of whether it’s the sodium or the carbonate that’s most effective, Penner said.

Industry partner Papillon Agricultur­e Company, owned by calcium-and manganesec­arbonate producer Inter-Rock Minerals, is providing $62,800 in cash and in-kind support. Papillon wants to understand the role its carbonate feed products play in mitigating cattle heat stress. SaskMilk, which is contributi­ng $23,500 in cash and in-kind support, is the other industry partner.

 ?? Photo: Submitted ?? Dr. Jon Bennett (PhD), assistant professor in USask’s College of Agricultur­e and Bioresourc­es (AgBio), and Dr. Gregory Penner (PhD), AgBio professor and USask Centennial Enhancemen­t Chair in Ruminant Nutritiona­l Physiology.
Photo: Submitted Dr. Jon Bennett (PhD), assistant professor in USask’s College of Agricultur­e and Bioresourc­es (AgBio), and Dr. Gregory Penner (PhD), AgBio professor and USask Centennial Enhancemen­t Chair in Ruminant Nutritiona­l Physiology.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada