The overarching aim of the alliance, said Alltech, is the development of sustainable arable and livestock systems with the added value of improving homegrown feed, and improving animal health.
Professor Maurice Boland, research director, Alltech said the company chose to partner with Rothamsted based on its world class facilities and land base, its scientific and technical personnel, and its focus on research relating to silage health and feed quality.
The alliance will support two PhD posts, he continued. A candidate has already been selected for the post in the area of silage quality, while the subject matter for the second post is yet to be finalized.
“Scientists at Rothamsted and Alltech are actively discussing what the focus of the second doctoral thesis should be,” said Boland.
Along with the academic input, both students will get the opportunity to experience research in the applied, commercial setting, leaving them in a favorable position for employment on completion of their PhD, he said.
Silage may be a potential source of infection and a risk to animal health associated with moulds and mycotoxins, said Alltech.
In the UK alone it has been estimated that £170m (US$246) worth of silage is lost annually from aerobic spoilage, it noted.
The ability to reduce mould contamination therefore could have far reaching impacts on farm profitability: “In Ireland and the UK, the quality of the silage and the nutritive value is dependent on weather, contaminants, moisture and maturity. Lower quality silage can impact milk production in dairy cattle. We are collaborating with Rothamsted to evaluate silage quality and, in doing so, see if we can also enhance animal performance,” Boland told us.
The silage research will determine the potential impact of soil enhancers on the soil-plant-microbe system through influencing the soil microbiota and nutrient cycling efficiency to potentially reduce spoilage moulds such as Fusarium spp., Aspergillus spp. and Penicillium spp, according to a project description posted as part of the PhD candidate selection procedure.
Lower levels of these mycotoxin causing agents should result in a lower fungal load on silage, resulting in a more stable microbial fermentation, greater aerobic stability and subsequently higher nutritional value.
The project is set to investigate new grass and maize leys with and without soil improvement products and follow the microbial community associated with the crop from pre-harvest, post-harvest, ensiling and during feed out.
Microbial communities will be analyzed using meta-genomic facilities so a detailed understanding of the feed and silo microbiome can be established. Feed quality and nutrient provision will be analysed in animal feeding trials as well as feed conversion efficiencies.
Boland said the alliance with Rothamsted is just one of 20 such collaborative projects that Alltech is involved in.
It already works with agribusiness companies, research institutes and universities from nine countries including China Japan, Australia, the US, Ireland, Norway, the UK, India and France.
Dr Karl Dawson, that company’s chief scientific officer and global research director, told us last year that such initiatives stimulate multi-discipline teamwork, and can provide access to joint funding, research and intellectual property.
“There is huge overlap in what it is going on in genetics, nutrition and management in terms of animal husbandry, with the latter two often having to play catch up with the breeding side. But learning the management and nutrition tools that address genetic advancements are critical to fertility, production efficiency and optimizing the animal’s gut health.
One of the things we are doing is trying to identify challenges and then we set about manipulating nutritional programs to increase offspring per breeding animal.
Some of the research teams in the Alliance have been focused on how looking at how changing the ratio of trace minerals can improve reproductive performance or how mycotoxin contamination can impact fertility,” he added.
Meanwhile, Alltech said it is continuing to invest in the crop science side of the business.
A new dedicated crop research facility will open this year at its European headquarters in Dunboyne, Ireland.