Effects of soil type on density of trees and nutritive value of tree leaves in selected communal areas of South Africa
This study aimed to describe the distribution and nutritive value of woody species growing in clay-loamy and red-brown sand from selected localities of North West, South Africa. Three 2.2 km transects, radiating from homesteads, which served as replicates, were established at each of four selected grazing areas. Nine 10 × 10 m homogenous vegetation units (HVU), 20 m apart, were marked in each transect. Woody plant density, height and canopy cover (CC), were recorded, and chemical properties and degradability via in vitro ruminal fermentation of harvested leaves were measured. Raisin bush (Grewia flava), Buffalo thorn (Ziziphus mucronata) and Camel thorn (Vachellia erioloba) were the common species across both soil types. Soil type influenced (P <0.05) plant density, CC, total tree equivalent (TTE) and plant height. Areas with red-brown sandy soil had higher (P <0.05) total plant density (827.7 plant/ha), CC (9.6%) and TTE (2886.4 TTE/ha) than those with clay-loamy soil. Vachellia erioloba leaves in clay-loamy soil had the highest (P <0.05) crude protein content (151.2 g/kg DM). Leaves of Searsia lancea species that were harvested from both the clay-loamy and red-brown sandy soils had the highest (P <0.05) amounts of condensed tannins (0.915 AU550/200 mg and 0.917 AU550/200 mg, respectively). Searsia lancea leaves had the lowest (P <0.05) in vitro ruminal nitrogen degradability values in both soil types. The leaves of Z. mucronata and G. flava leaves have potential as protein supplements for ruminants owing to their higher crude protein content and in vitro ruminal N degradability.
Keywords: canopy cover, feeding value, plant height, semi-arid, species diversity, tree equivalent