Researchers from the Research Group on Ruminants led by Elena Albanell, lecturer in Animal and Food Science, have successfully thwarted sheep and goats from eating olive tree and grapevine leaves. By conditioning the species’ palettes, researchers redirected their food preferences making them more willing to eat undesirable plants from pastures.
Olive trees, grapevines, fruit trees, and other woody plants make up about a quarter of the cultivated cropland in Spain. These cultivation systems allow plants to grow around the trees or vines, however, in order to prevent these plants from choking out the crop, they must be controlled with herbicides and farming equipment. These processes not only cost time and money for farmers, but they can cause environmental impacts due to the residues left behind from the chemicals and the compacted soil produced by farming equipment can lead to reduced rainfall infiltration and poor root penetration.