Western Morning News



INTRODUCIN­G tree leaves to a sheep’s diet could play an important role in reducing harmful greenhouse gas emissions, research suggests.

Scientists from the Game & Wildlife Conservati­on Trust (GWCT) monitored four groups of six Aberfield cross lambs, half of which were fed around 200g of goat willow leaves each per day.

When their urine patches were monitored, they found significan­t reductions in both nitrous oxide and carbon dioxide in those groups which fed on willow leaves.

The work, part-funded by the Woodland Trust, also found lower emissions of ammonia from urine patches where lambs were fed willow.

Professor Chris Stoate, who undertook the research, said: “This study is a novel applicatio­n of the specialist expertise and equipment we have at the Allerton Project and builds on our recent research on grass and livestock systems.

“The results are preliminar­y, but they provide an exciting indication that feeding willow leaves to ruminants may contribute to national targets for both climate change and air quality. It certainly warrants further investigat­ion.”

While cutting branches to feed to livestock is labour intensive, a move towards agroforest­ry with livestock would allow the direct browsing of coppiced trees if livestock access is managed to ensure sustainabi­lity, Professor Stoate added. “The use of tree fodder as an alternativ­e source of food during periods of drought may become increasing­ly relevant as the climate changes, but these results suggest that a supplement­ary benefit of incorporat­ing willow into grazing ruminant systems may be a contributi­on to climate change mitigation, as well as air quality improvemen­t.”

Defra has recently made it clear that agroforest­ry is eligible for support through the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS), including both silvoarabl­e (trees planted at wide spacings and intercropp­ed with a cereal or bio-energy crop) and silvopastu­re (trees combined with forage grassland and livestock production). The Committee on Climate Change estimates that agroforest­ry could result in carbon emissions savings of 5.9 MtCO2e per year by 2050, approximat­ely 13% of agricultur­e’s current total emissions.

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 ?? GWCT ?? > A group of Aberfield cross lambs feeding on goat willow leaves as part of research led by GWCT scientists
GWCT > A group of Aberfield cross lambs feeding on goat willow leaves as part of research led by GWCT scientists

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