Green gold in grass proteins

Major Danish research project to clarify how sustainable production of grass proteins for pigs and chickens can become economically attractive…

Recent scientifical investigations have shown great environmental- and climate benefits in substituting parts of the current crops with grass-based protein production. Now, a major four year project “GrassProf” will uncover how sustainable benefits also translate into economic benefits.

Already today, the economic scenarios for producing grass-based proteins for organic pig- and chicken production looks attractive, but when it comes to conventional farming there are still a number of factors that need to be optimized before a feasible competition with imported soy can be realized.

First, the process should rely only on varieties with maximum protein yield. In this regard, DLF will head the tests of more than 300 grass- and clover varieties aiming to select 50 with the highest protein yield- and quality. These varieties will be subject to digestibility tests as well as evaluation for biogas potential. The results from these experiments will be used to formulate grass mixtures tailored for the purpose and to assist future breeding for higher protein content through genomic selection.

Second, new harvesting equipment and machines need to be developed, in order to handle the forage grass at the refineries, so yield and quality can be ensured for protein extraction. This challenge will be addressed by several farm machine manufacturers, who together with researchers will outline how protein quality most efficiently can be preserved from field to the protein screw press.

Third, by-products from the refinery needs to be utilized more efficiently, and researcher will investigate how high-value constituents, which has health promoting effects against intestinal parasites can be retrieved.

Christian Sig Jensen, Head of Biotech at DLF looks forward to getting started: “GrassProf will be the most extensive experiment on refining grasses we have conducted so far. We have already made promising results in alfalfa, but with clover and grass we can explore a lot more opportunities.”

GrassProf is headed by Erik Fog, SEGES, and includes no less than four Danish universities, as well as a number of industrial stakeholders. It has ha total budget of 18.8 M DKK of which the Danish Ministry of Agriculture contribute with 11.3 M DKK through its GUDP fond.