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FA COST Action 852
Quality Legume-Based Forage Systems for Contrasting Environments

The main objective of the Action is to increase the quantity and quality of home grown proteins from regionally adapted legume-based forage systems. The potential for legumes to contribute to sustainable agricultural development relates to their ability to (a) reduce the requirements for inorganic N fertilisers derived from non-renewable sources of energy; (b) reduce losses of nitrogen to the environment, (c) reduce the need for imported concentrates, and (d) maintain and improve soil structure and fertility. To achieve this, the action had three working groups, each with its specific objectives and common experimental protocols. Temporal and spatial variation in legume performance occurs and this restricts the confidence of farmers in legume-based systems.

The main strenght of the Action was the set up of the common experiments and the creation of an extensive network that this entailed. The Agrobiodiversity experiment is the biggest biodiversity experiment carried out worldwide ever with 42 sites in more than 20 countries. It covers a range of climatic conditions in Europe from Greece to Iceland and stretches from Australia to Canada. Data of all the different sites are being assembled in a large database which will form the basis for extensive analyses of the data. The last data will be available after the end date of the Action; therefore the network will continue after the enddate with their data and analyses. For the data analyses and how to interprete all the results from the common experiments, a training workshop was organised for the participants.

Results have been obtained in the area such as the effects of grass-legume mixtures on plant yield, weed invasion, arthropod communities, soil micro organisms, gaseous N-losses, Nitrate leaching and forage quality. In the common experiments also the effects were studied of genetic diversity within individual plant species on yield and stability and studies were done with cows measuring forage preference and uptake, in addition to the N household of the animal, N excretion of the animal, milk yield and quality.

Preliminary results have been presented and disseminated at a meeting of the European Grassland Federation and at the International Grassland Congress in Dublin in 2005.

The Action managed to attract a number of young scientists that became active in carrying out the experiments and played an important part in setting up various spin-off studies.

This COST network was extremely important for this area of research, because over the years funding for this type of research decreased and through this COST network common experimental work could be initiated (including expensive animal experiments).

(Descriptions are provided by the Actions directly via e-COST.)


Last updated: 02 May 2011 top of page