Seasonal and Diurnal Variation in Simple Sugar and Fructan Composition of Orchardgrass Pasture and Hay in the Piedmont Region of the United States

Isabelle A. Kagan, Brett H. Kirch, Craig D. Thatcher, James R. Strickland, Chris D. Teutsch, François Elvinger, R. Scott Pleasant

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


Seasonal and diurnal changes in water-soluble carbohydrates (WSC) and ethanol-soluble carbohydrates (ESC), as well as in chromatographic profiles of the sugars comprising these categories, were studied in orchardgrass pastures at one location in the Piedmont region of Virginia. Grass from four experimental plots was sampled weekly in the morning and afternoon over an 8-week period (early to late spring). Tissue was air-dried to simulate hay, or frozen to preserve the sugar profiles of fresh pasture. WSC and ESC were assayed colorimetrically. To profile sugars, boiled-water extracts were separated by high-performance liquid chromatography coupled to pulsed amperometric detection. Fructan, glucose, fructose, and sucrose were quantified by high-performance liquid chromatography. All sugar concentrations were highest in the early spring in both fresh and dried tissue. Fructan chain length was highest in early spring as well. Significant diurnal differences were observed for WSC and fructan, on some dates (P < .0001 and P = .024, respectively), and for ESC, glucose, and sucrose averaged over the entire period (P = .0002, .004, and <0001, respectively). Sucrose was barely detectable in fresh tissue but reached 1.6% to 12% dry matter in dried tissue. These results demonstrate changes in orchardgrass carbohydrates over a season, within a day, and between dried and fresh herbage. Understanding these changes may be helpful in the management of horses with a history of insulin resistance and laminitis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)488-497
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Equine Veterinary Science
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2011

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors thank Mac Wilson for providing weather data, Phil Harrison (USDA-ARS-FRRL, Logan, UT) for providing standards of fructan, Kelly Brown and Brenda Coe for DM determinations, Tamara Kays for help with extraction and cleanup of HPLC samples, and Mark Taylor, DVM, for forage collection and processing at several periods. This study was funded by the Virginia Horse Industry Board and the US Department of Agriculture.


  • Fructan
  • Laminitis
  • Orchardgrass
  • Sucrose
  • WSC

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Equine


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