Pigeonpea Benefits Cattle on the Range
Livestock producers across the Great Plains could have the benefits
of nutritious forages year round thanks in part to pigeonpea, Cajanus
Pigeonpea is a summer legume with excellent drought tolerance. It is
used extensively in Asia for human food and livestock feed. The crop
ranks sixth in the world in dryland legume production.
Agricultural Research Service
scientists, led by agronomist Srinivas C. Rao at the Grazinglands Research
Laboratory in El Reno, Oklahoma, found that pigeonpea has the potential
to fill the late summer/fall gap in forage availability.
"A basic goal of all grazing programs is to provide high-quality
forage year-round, reducing costs of harvesting and storing forage or
purchasing concentrate feeds for use when green forage can't be grown,"
says Rao. "No single crop can provide forage year round, so we're
seeking new forage species that can grow when traditional ones aren't
The primary forage resources for live stock production in the Great
Plains are winter wheat during early winter and spring and perennial
grasses during late spring and summer.
But high-quality forage is often unavailable from late July through
late November, because the quality and quantity of the grasses decline
and winter wheat forage is not yet available.
To determine whether pigeonpea could fill this void, Rao and his colleagues
conducted field studies of the legume during the summer fallow periodJune
to Septemberin a continuous winter wheat production system at
the El Reno laboratory. ARS scientists evaluated seasonal forage production
patterns, yields, and qualities of three pigeonpea ecotypesICP8151,
ICPX910007, and PBNAobtained from the germplasm collection at
the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics
Pigeonpea forage yields were greater than those from grasses and other
legumes, ranging from 1,000 pounds of dry matter per acre in July to
11,300 pounds per acre in the first week of October. Nitrogen content
and dry matter digestibility also compared favorably with other alternatives.
The pigeonpeas used in the studies have medium to long growing seasons
and flower in 180 to 220 days. Pigeonpeas lose their leaves in fall
with the first freezing temperatures.
Pigeonpea yields and nutritive values during the summer fallow period
equaled or exceeded those of other forage crops reported for this region.
Potential benefits to farmers include lowered costs of livestock production,
improvements in soil fertility associated with the nitrogen-fixing capabilities
of this productive legume, and reduced vulnerability of soils to erosion
by wind and water during the summer fallow period.By Jennifer Arnold,
formerly with ARS.
This work is part of Rangeland, Pasture, and Forages, an ARS National
Program (#205) described on the World Wide Web at http://www.nps.ars.usda.gov.
|"Pigeonpea Benefits Cattle on the Range" was published in the August 2002 issue of Agricultural Research magazine.|