Ways to improve the nutritional value of rapeseed and meal for non-ruminant livestock have been explored as part of a new research review carried out by the Home Grown Cereals Authority in the UK.

The 13-month study concluded that improved oilseed rape (OSR) varieties with a lower glucosinolate content and a thinner seed coat (resulting in higher oil and protein, and less fibre), would have a real value in the pig and poultry feed market.

Yellow seed varieties were also deemed to have value, due to their association with a reduction of undesirable polyphenols in the seed coat.

As part of the desk research, the value of an improved variety with a thinner yellow-seed coat, containing an additional 4% oil plus protein (93% dry matter basis), was evaluated for pigs and poultry (broilers and layers).

The researchers concluded that the whole seed would be favoured in broiler diets and the rapeseed meal would have the highest value in the pig sector, followed by layer then broiler birds.

In terms of value to industry associated with an improved variety, the researchers broadly estimated improved feeding values could be worth an extra €28/t to €38/t of rapeseed, with a value of conventional rapeseed estimated at €430/t.

The views of breeders were also sought and this element of the study found that there is a general target of breeding oilseed rape varieties for additional oil plus protein.

In respect to thinner yellow-coat types, breeding for this trait had been attempted in the 1990s but abandoned due to establishment issues and a high level of harvest damage.

Since that time, newer yellow-seeded types of Brassica napus, developed in Canada and France, have become available. A recommendation from the study is for these types to be tested under UK conditions and for the value to industry to be quantified.

The authors of the report also recommend research is conducted to improve the ability to screen for key genetic quality traits and to understand better the agronomic implications of breeding for thin seed coats.

The work forms part of a wider HGCA research programme looking at the quality requirements of the animal feed sector and exploring the potential of cereals and oilseeds-based feed rations instead of using imported soya-meal.

The programme includes two projects looking at how higher levels of rapeseed meal could be included in pig and poultry feed without compromising tight feed specifications or animal performance.