AbstractThe use of rape straw in ruminant production is limited by its high lignin content and low ruminal degradability. White rot fungi are the most efficient known degraders of lignin. Four white rot fungi were investigated for their potential to degrade lignin and improve rumen fermentation of rape straw. Solid state fermentation of the straw was carried out for 0 to 30 days to determine changes in chemical composition and in vitro rumen fermentation. Results showed that Phanerochaete chrysosporium and Lentinula edodes degraded about 45% of lignin and enhanced the in vitro organic matter digestibility (IVOMD) and volatile fatty acid production; however, about 55% of the cellulose was lost after 30 days of incubation. Ceriporiopsis subvermispora and Phlebia acerina degraded a fraction (< 30%) of lignin and cellulose, but inhibited ruminal fermentation. Fungal incubation increased the chitin content of rape straw. Regression analysis showed that the IVOMD increase depended on the combined action of neutral detergent fiber loss and chitin content increase in rape straw. This study indicates that considerations of the conversion of rape straw into ruminant feed with white-rot fungi should take into account the degradation of lignin, fiber loss, and the chitin produced along with the growth of fungi.