Leucaena toxicity: a new perspective on the most widely used forage tree legume

Michael J. Halliday, Jagadish Padmanabha, Chris S. McSweeney, Graham Kerven, H. Max Shelton

Abstract


The tree legume Leucaena leucocephala (leucaena) is a high quality ruminant feed, vitally important for livestock production in the tropics, despite the presence of mimosine in the leaves. This toxic non-protein amino acid has the potential to limit productivity and adversely affect the health of animals. In the 1980s, the ruminal bacterium Synergistes jonesii was discovered and subsequently distributed in Australia as an oral inoculum to overcome these toxic effects. However, in recent times, a number of factors, including: surveys of the status of toxicity worldwide; improved understanding of the chemistry and mode of action of the toxins; new techniques for molecular sequencing; and concerns about the efficacy of the in vitro inoculum; have cast doubt on some past understanding of leucaena toxicity and provide new insights into the geographical spread of S. jonesii. There is also confusion and ignorance regarding the occurrence and significance of toxicity in many countries worldwide. Ongoing research into the taxonomy and ecology of the Synergistetes phylum, improved methods of inoculation, and improved management solutions, along with aware-ness-raising extension activities, are vital for the future success of leucaena feeding systems.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.17138/tgft(1)1-11

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