Nutritional Characteristics And Seed Germination Improvement Of The Forage Shrub Retama Sphaerocarpa (L.) Boiss
Retama sphaerocarpa shrubs form populations that can be an important forage resource during the dry season when pasture shortages are common in certain arid and semi-arid Mediterranean basin regions. The leaves of R. sphaerocarpa were analyzed for dry matter (DM), crude protein (CP), neutral detergent fiber (NDF), acid detergent fiber (ADF) and acid detergent lignin (ADL) contents. Leaves were also analyzed for the concentration of macro- (P, K, Ca and Mg) and microelements (Mn, Zn, Fe, and Na). According to the contents of CP, NDF, ADF and ADL in the leaves examined, this species could strike an appropriate balance between available feed ingredients for daily nutritional needs of animals. The contents of Ca, K, Na, P, Fe, Mg, and Zn in Retama sphaerocarpa shrubs were found to be high, compared to a number of other forage shrub species. Conversely, the rate of natural regeneration of this shrub in situ was estimated at 2-5%. R. sphaerocarpa seeds are affected by seed coat dormancy that prevents seed germination under natural conditions. The seed germination was assessed at a laboratory after the chemical scarification of seeds by concentrated sulphuric acid in the duration range of 0 min and 240 min. The principal component analysis of data related to the germination ability and seedling emergence showed that the best pretreatment was 120 min immersion in sulphuric acid at 25°C (± 2°C), resulting in 86% of the final germination percentage (FGP) and 14.6 cm of the seedling length (SL). According to the results obtained, this species could be considered a ruminant feed of great nutritive value when drought decreases grazing herbaceous biomass yields. These results should encourage farmers and foresters to integrate R. sphaerocarpa into their planting programs.