Explore the top three warm season legumes for nitrogen fixing and more in beef cattle forage pastures.
Warm season legumes are popular for their ability to fix nitrogen, but they are also beneficial for another reason. According to a South Florida Beef-Forage Program article, warm season legumes offer “an extremely nutritious feed source.” See your options in choosing one below.
Options for Warm Season Legumes
After a soil test, the article explains about the three most common warm season legumes. They are:
- Florida Carpon Desmodium. “Carpon desmodium is a perennial warm season legume that has adapted well to Florida flatwoods soil. Seedlings are susceptible to both draught and flooding failure, but after the plants have become established they can tolerate excessive moisture and severe spring draught. Most of the plant’s growth takes place from summer to early fall. The plant’s foliage can contain between 12-20 percent crude protein. By fixing nitrogen in the soil, carpon desmodium has the ability to add the equivalent of 30 to 75 lb./A of nitrogen to the soil.”
- Aeschynomene. “It is an annual plant with the ability to reseed itself for several years after its initial establishment. Common aeschynomene is best suited for fertile, moist soils, and prefers wet conditions to draught. The ideal pH of aeschynomene is between 5.5-6.0. No nitrogen fertilization is recommended. Seeding date of aeschynomene is critical. It is typically planted in the summer to insure adequate moisture. It is recommended that if there have not been legumes of the cowpea group in the pasture, the seed should be inoculated prior to planting. If seeding into established bahiagrass pastures several steps should be taken to promote success. The first is burn off excess bahiagrass in late winter, the second is no application of nitrogen during spring planting, and the third is to remove bahiagrass immediately before planting by grazing or chopping. Aeschynomene is best suited for grazing. It does not perform well when cut for hay.”
- Alyceclover. “It is a late season, annual legume native to the tropics in Asia, but has adapted well to south Florida pastures. It can re-establish itself through self-seeding, if the crop is allowed to make seed in the fall. Alyceclover is suited for well-drained soils, and does not perform well on soils that flood. It is also highly susceptible to rootknot nematodes. For the establishment of alyceclover, sod should be grazed closely and cut with a chopper. The chopping exposes soil and allows seeds to come into direct contact with the soil for better germination.”
The article recommends trying a different warm season legume if the first is unsuccessful.
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