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Stackyard News Sep 06

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Yellow And Blue Lupins For Home-Grown Protein

A realistic home-grown alternative to imported protein sources has taken a step closer, thanks to an on-going five-year project being carried out as part of the DEFRA Sustainable Arable LINK Scheme.

Lupins look set to be a valuable home-grown
protein source for UK livestock farmers

Yellow Lupins

The Lupins in Sustainable Agriculture (LISA) Project is the first comprehensive evaluation of the benefits of spring sown yellow and blue lupins for organic and conventional use in the UK.

“Lupins have attracted interest before as a potential home-grown alternative to bought-in soya, but unreliable yields and inconsistent performance with winter-sown white varieties have held back more widespread use in the dairy sector,” points out Dr Michael Abberton, head of legume breeding at IGER where the project is being co-ordinated.

“The LISA project is now examining the germplasm of yellow and blue lupins to see if a focused selection process can produce more consistent varieties. In addition to more reliable yields we are also aiming for earlier maturity and greater tolerance of alkaline soils.

“Spring lupins are not utilised widely in the UK, but do have the potential to increase efficiency of nitrogen and phosphorus use in arable rotations and as on-farm feed for dairy cows. Lupins can also provide a high protein grain of known provenance and provide a source of oils, energy and important secondary metabolites,” Dr Abberton explains.

Encouraging progress to date indicates the potential for a spring-sown lupin grain crop of 2-3 t/ha with a protein content in the 35-45% bracket and ME of 11-14 MJ/kg DM. Crimping is being investigated as one on-farm processing option, and feeding trials are underway at both IGER and Newcastle University to evaluate the grain as an alternative to soya. “Animal performance studies at IGER later this year will compare the effects of soya and lupins on milk yield and quality, with the results expected early in 2007,” Dr Abberton says.

“In terms of crop yield on farm, we calculated at the start of the project that 1-1.5 t/ha would be the threshold beyond which spring-sown lupins would become viable, so the potential is clearly there to establish the crop as a cost effective alternative protein source,” concludes Dr Abberton. “Continued breeding progress, together with work to establish best agronomic practice, should bring the consistency and reliability that will make the crop a success in practice.

“In addition to being a reliable and totally traceable source of protein, lupins improve soil fertility by fixing nitrogen from the atmosphere and may make more effective use of phosphorous than peas or beans – both major environmental benefits and important aspects in relation to sustainable livestock farming.”

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