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Reprod Toxicol. 2009 Jan;27(1):63-71. doi: 10.1016/j.reprotox.2008.11.056. Epub 2008 Dec 3.

Dietary red clover (Trifolium pratense) induces oviduct growth and decreases ovary and testes growth in Japanese quail chicks.

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Department of Animal Science, University of California, One Shields Avenue, Davis, CA 95616, United States.


To determine whether drought-stress alters phytoestrogens in red clover and whether red clover in the diet influences sexual development in Japanese quail, we fed chicks diets containing irrigated or non-irrigated clover. Irrigation altered phytoestrogenic activity of red clover (determined using an in vitro bioassay), with extracts of irrigated clover diet containing more estrogenic activity than extracts of non-irrigated clover diet. Chick growth was negatively correlated with the amount of irrigated or non-irrigated clover in the diet. Dietary red clover also depressed both absolute and relative gonad weights; however, relative oviduct weight was increased by the irrigated diet. Diets did not affect serum vitellogenin. These results reveal a negative influence of drought-stress on phytoestrogenic potency of clover, and that red clover in the diet can inhibit avian growth and development independent of irrigation state. Thus, phytoestrogens may affect reproductive development in wild birds, and environmental stressors may influence levels of phytoestrogens in the field.

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