Farm Ireland

Monday 22 January 2018

New wheat strain could boost poultry profits

Poultry profits could be boosted (Stock picture)
Poultry profits could be boosted (Stock picture)

Chris McCullough

A new strain of wheat could reduce the need for feed supplements, while at the same time provide key nutrients that promote healthy bones in poultry.

This latest research could help poultry farmers cut production costs and make a healthier profit in an industry which is valued at over €1bn for the island of Ireland.

In a joint effort between researchers at Nottingham Trent University in England and Aarhus University in Denmark, the focus was on developing a bird with a strong bone structure.

The Danish scientists discovered wheat can be bred naturally to produce high levels of phytase, an enzyme needed to release phosphorous, which the bird requires to grow a healthy skeleton.

While the Danish developed the wheat, the group in Nottingham tested it out at the university's own poultry research unit. Over the past 50 years, the poultry industry has been successful in achieving excellent growth rates for birds, but now the focus is on ensuring that a healthy, well-developed skeletal frame is produced.

Nutritionists have tackled this issue through supplements to ensure the ­correct mineral balance is in the diet of poultry. For the latest work, the Danish scientists used their expertise to make it simple and efficient to breed wheat with naturally high levels of phytase.


Scientists in Nottingham Trent University's poultry nutrition research team then designed and carried out a poultry nutrition trial to compare this new source of phytase to traditional poultry diet formulations. The trial shows that inclusion of the high phytase wheat in the feed is a highly effective way to ­unlock the phosphorous in the diet for use by the animal.

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Dr Henrik Brinch-Pedersen, the group leader at Aarhus University, said: "Aiming for high-phytate activity in wheat grains has been a key research target for many years.

"Reaching it was a milestone, but seeing that it works well in animal feeding is extremely satisfactory. A particularly exciting additional implication of this work may actually be for humans.

"700 million people globally suffer anaemia partly caused by the high phytate content of their diet. Providing a variety of wheat that contains its own phytate-destruction enzyme could improve the population health of many nations."

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