A research consortium will re-examine the nutritional value of oilseed rape meal when fed to pigs and poultry, in a £325,000 project.

Utilising oilseed rape has the potential to reduce the UK’s reliance on expensive, imported plant proteins.

Dr Jos Houdijk, a researcher with Scotland’s Rural College, will lead the project, which is due to run until March 2016. SRUC will work in partnership with the University of Nottingham and the National Institute of Agricultural Botany (NIAB), bringing together plant breeders and animal nutritionists. It is funded by industry levy body HGCA.

“The main rationale is that information on UK nutritional values and maximum inclusion rates for OSR meal in pig and poultry feed is probably out of date,” said Dr Houdijk. “Overseas they have been including higher levels of OSR in meal for young pigs without any detrimental impact on their growth performance.”

The HGCA project has been established in the belief that it is an appropriate time to revisit the UK recommendations.

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Researchers will test a wide range of currently used OSR varieties for both nutritional and anti-nutritional factors. Through a series of biochemical, digestibility and growth trials they will link the chemical analysis of current OSR varieties with their nutritional value for pigs and poultry.

They will also carry out a similar investigation into nutritional and anti-nutritional factors, composition and variation in modern rape varieties.

The project is expected to provide the UK feed industry updated information and instil greater confidence about using OSR meal in pig and poultry feeds.