Cultivar-dependent variation in lentil (Lens culinaris L.) and implications for selecting food-feed varieties
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Lentil straw is one of the extensively used livestock feed in mixed crop-livestock systems in Sub-Saharan Africa. To identify the importance of varietal and environmental sources of variation in the nutritive value of straw for livestock feed, 71 genotypes of lentil were evaluated for straw fodder quality and their potential trade-offs with straw and grain yield. Straw fodder quality traits chosen were crude protein, in vitro digestibility and in-vitro metabolisable energy content, analyzed using a combination of conventional laboratory techniques and Near Infrared Reflectance Spectroscopy (NIRS). Results from eight trials across three sites using randomized complete block design showed highly significant genotypic variation in grain and straw yields as well as in straw fodder quality traits. A positive correlation between grain yield and straw yield was observed (r=0.55, P<0.01). The correlation between crude protein of the straw and grain yield was strong and negative (r=-0.73; P<0.01), the correlations were weak and negative between grain yield and total in-vitro organic matter digestibility (r=-0.12; P<0.01) and between grain yield and metabolisable energy ME (r=-0.03; P>0.05). Crude protein can, therefore, be considered as an important criteria for varietal selection for food-feed traits. The study pinpoints to the possibility of incorporating straw traits to generate food-feed varieties of lentil to address the high demand for grain and livestock fodder in the mixed crop-livestock farming system of Ethiopia.