Fill Seasonal Forage Gap
By Luis Pons
August 8, 2002
Livestock producers across the Great
Plains could one day have the benefits of nutritious forages year round, thanks
in part to pigeonpea.
Agricultural Research Service
scientists, led by agronomist Srinivas C. Rao at the
Grazinglands Research Laboratory in El
Reno, Okla., found that the legume has the potential to fill a gap in forage
availability that affects livestock farms between late summer and fall.
Pigeonpea, or Cajanus cajan, is a summer legume with excellent
drought tolerance. Used extensively in Asia for human food and livestock feed,
it ranks sixth in the world in dryland legume production.
Research showed that pigeonpea yields and nutritive values during the summer
equaled those of other forage crops reported for the region.
Potential benefits to the farmer would include lowered costs of livestock
production and improvements in soil fertility, thanks to the ability of this
productive legume to transform nitrogen from the atmosphere into a form plants
can use to fuel their growth--a process called "nitrogen fixation."
Pigeonpea could also reduce vulnerability of soils to erosion by wind and water
during the summer fallow period between winter wheat crops.
A goal of grazing research programs is to provide high-quality forage year
round to reduce the costs associated with harvesting and storing forage and of
purchasing concentrate feeds for use when green forage can't be grown.
Since no single crop has the potential to provide year-round forage,
identifying new forage species that can be grown when others aren't productive
makes this pigeonpea alternative important.
The primary forage resources for livestock production in the Great Plains
are winter wheat during early winter and spring, and perennial grasses during
spring and summer. But high-quality forage is often scarce from late July
through late November, because the quality and quantity of grasses decline and
winter wheat forage is not yet available.
Read more about this research in the
August issue of
Agricultural Research magazine.
ARS is the U.S. Department of
Agriculture's chief scientific research agency.