Discovery Shines Light on Wheat Nutrition

UK - A study, conducted by the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI) and Queen’s University (QUB), has revealed potential improvements in the analysis of the nutritional value of wheat for broiler chickens.
calendar icon 15 April 2008
clock icon 3 minute read
Dr Bronagh Owens and Dr Elizabeth McCann discuss the potential of NIRS to predict the chemical value of wheat for broiler chickens

For many years, the specific weight of wheat has been used as the internationally accepted measure of wheat quality, with an agreed arbitrary minimum value of 72 kg per hectolitre (hl) for feed quality wheat. However, results of this project, coupled with previous work within AFBI, have shown a poor relationship between the specific weight of wheat and the nutritive value for poultry.

The use of the industry standard of 72kg per hl is therefore difficult to justify, and there is an urgent need for an alternative, accurate and rapid means of assessing feed wheat quality.

This study, sponsored by the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development and the Home Grown Cereals Authority, has investigated the potential of near infrared spectroscopy (NIRS) to predict the chemical and physical characteristics of wheat and also to predict the nutritive value of wheat for broiler chickens. NIRS is widely used in the ruminant sector to predict the nutritive value of forages for cattle and sheep and AFBI, Hillsborough is one of the world leaders in this area.

Results of the project indicate that when milled wheat samples were scanned using NIRS, strong calibrations were achieved to predict wheat specific weight, crude protein content and the rate of starch digestion. The determination of these parameters using NIRS is considerably more economic and labour saving than traditional laboratory methods.

Also, NIRS scanning of whole wheat kernels on an “as is” basis provided robust predictions of both live weight gain (LWG) and feed conversion efficiency for broilers. These findings will have major potential benefits to the feed wheat industry. Potentially, a whole grain wheat sample can be scanned for a few seconds on an NIR machine and from the spectra, a very accurate prediction of broiler performance can be obtained. Implications of this for grain pricing schedules and plant breeding programmes are very significant.

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