Antonie van Leeuwenhoek

, Volume 96, Issue 4, pp 363–375 | Cite as

Dietary phytochemicals as rumen modifiers: a review of the effects on microbial populations

  • Amlan K. Patra
  • Jyotisna Saxena
Review Paper


In the recent years, the exploration of bioactive phytochemicals as natural feed additives has been of great interest among nutritionists and rumen microbiologists to modify the rumen fermentation favorably such as defaunation, inhibition of methanogenesis, improvement in protein metabolism, and increasing conjugated linoleic acid content in ruminant derived foods. Many phytochemicals such as saponins, essential oils, tannins and flavonoids from a wide range of plants have been identified, which have potential values for rumen manipulation and enhancing animal productivity as alternatives to chemical feed additives. However, their effectiveness in ruminant production has not been proved to be consistent and conclusive. This review discusses the effects of phytochemicals such as saponins, tannins and essential oils on the rumen microbial populations, i.e., bacteria, protozoa, fungi and archaea with highlighting molecular diversity of microbial community in the rumen. There are contrasting reports of the effects of these phytoadditives on the rumen fermentation and rumen microbes probably depending upon the interactions among the chemical structures and levels of phytochemicals used, nutrient composition of diets and microbial components in the rumen. The study of chemical structure–activity relationships is required to exploit the phytochemicals for obtaining target responses without adversely affecting beneficial microbial populations. A greater understanding of the modulatory effects of phytochemicals on the rumen microbial populations together with fermentation will allow a better management of the rumen ecosystem and a practical application of this feed additive technology in livestock production.


Essential oils Microbial ecology Phytochemicals Rumen modifiers Saponins Tannins 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Animal Nutrition, Faculty of Veterinary and Animal SciencesWest Bengal University of Animal and Fishery SciencesKolkataIndia
  2. 2.Department of Botany and MicrobiologyUniversity of OklahomaNormanUSA

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