This study was conducted by a Ghanaian researcher Dr. Domozoro, C.Y.F. (CSIR – Animal Research Institute, P. O. Box AH20, Achimota, Accra, Ghana) and colleagues Wilcock, C.C., Swaine, M.D. and Price, A.H. (all of School of Biological Science, College of Life Sciences and Medicine, University of Aberdeen, UK).
The authors explained that the survival of an extensive livestock system, which is the major practice of most farmers in the livestock industry in Ghana, depends heavily on natural pastures as forage resource. To efficiently use the rangelands, knowledge of the species composition, especially those of poisonous plants is essential. The authors posited that documented knowledge in this subject, at the time of reporting, is very scanty in Ghana. And believed that documentation and dissemination of this knowledge would enable a wider access and utilization of the rangelands and ensure more benefit to stakeholders and livestock farmers.
The researchers conducted interviews with the aid of structured questionnaires to solicit response from respondents in the three (3) zones in Ghana (northern zone, middle belt and southern zone) pooled together for the study with major stakeholders in the livestock industry.
The researchers noted that all participants selected for the study gave their oral informed consent prior to their inclusion in the study. And that each respondent could provide more than one report, depending on the number of different accounts of plant poisoning of livestock provided. The questionnaire recorded at least one incident of plant poisoning with possible strategy(ies) for managing the situation, while items listed in any report as potentially poisonous to livestock, its antidote or others, required a citation. In addition, several materials could be cited in a report. At the end of interviews, respondents could choose between two options to provide plant and/or other material samples cited in discussion: (1) either by taking the researchers to the field to fetch the plant or (2) going alone to obtain samples, which were brought back to the researchers.
Voucher specimens of plants cited were pressed with the aid of a field press to absorb excess moisture and preserve plants in good condition for later study. The pressed material was labelled with collection date, local name, location and recorded use (poison or antidote). Voucher specimens were later deposited at the University of Aberdeen Herbarium (ABD) and the Animal Research Institute, Ghana.
The researchers employed the methods outlined by Irvine in 1961 and Dokosi in 1998 in identifying the plants and confirmed their identities by comparing them with herbarium specimens in the Ghana Herbarium, University of Ghana. Occasionally, specimens provided did not have enough features for a conclusive identification and some respondents provided local names; but could not provide species names, these remained unidentified and were noted in the study results. The researchers named (nomenclature) the plants samples following the African flowering plants database (2008), the International Plant Names Index (2008) and the Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN, 2007).
The researchers reiterated that the study was conducted in Ghana on poisonous plants with the aim to discover the existence and diversity of poisonous plants and associated antidotes affecting livestock for the purpose of documentation and preservation of knowledge. During the course of the study, 70 different items were cited by respondents; 22 were poisonous plants for which antidotes were not cited, 28 were poisonous plants with known antidotes and 32 antidotes. There were 575 citations of plants from 194 reported cases of suspected plant poisoning, categorized as poisonous plants for which no antidotes were cited (146), poisonous plants with cited antidotes (147) and antidotes (282). 50 plants species were identified and belonged to 29 plant families. Some plants were known only by local names.
The researchers concluded this extensive research aimed at soliciting and documenting extensive knowledge of the diversity of poisonous plants and antidotes with significance to livestock farming by successfully reporting a variety of previously undocumented materials. Sampled materials have been deposited at the University of Aberdeen Herbarium (ABD) and the Animal Research Institute, Ghana for reference purpose.
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