Research project Optimal cultivation of protein crops for poultry feeding

In progress OPTIPLUIM

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Marta Lourenço Ribeiro Alves

Marta Lourenço Ribeiro Alves

ILVO researcher


General introduction

How can arable farmers, poultry farmers and the local animal feed industry in Flanders work with crops mixed with legumes, as an alternative source of protein for poultry? This question is answered in a chain perspective, within the OPTIPLUIM project. The aim is to look at cultivation, processing and use. Implementing legumes in cultivation plans requires more knowledge regarding the concept of mixed cultivation in conventional and organic agriculture. With regard to the reduction of anti-nutritional components from the seeds, in Flanders we do have processing techniques for the leguminous plants separately, but not for mixed crops and certainly not yet for matching their use with laying hens and broilers in both conventional and organic production systems. Finally, the project also aims at the valorisation of the crop residues after harvesting the seeds. The question is whether the aerobic degradation by white-rot fungi could create an additional protein source.

Research approach

With field experiments we study how to optimize the cultivation technique of mixed crops in order to obtain maximum protein production. We test processing techniques to reduce antinutritional factors, coupled to the different production systems (conventional and organic farming, laying hens and broilers). We investigate whether the crop residues can be processed after harvesting using aerobic breakdown by white-rot fungi. We determine the interactions between three elements: feed composition, quality of eggs and chicken meat, and the effects on nitrogen excretion in the animals. We analyze the sustainability of leguminous crops as an alternative to soy.


The protein fraction in the feed ration of laying hens and broilers currently often consists of soy. Legumes are in theory a locally available alternative. In order to get to grips with the technical solutions for bottlenecks and the feasibility, the OPTIPLUIM project aims to clearly communicate the new insights, techniques and innovations to the conventional and organic arable farming and poultry sector. This improves the likelihood that arable farmers will become motivated to grow legumes and poultry farmers will use them in their feed. By implementing these leguminous plants, Flanders would take a step forward in meeting its protein needs in a more sustainable way. The dependence on soy imports would decrease.