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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: IMPROVED PLANT GENETIC RESOURCES FOR PASTURES AND RANGELANDS IN THE TEMPERATE SEMIARID REGIONS OF THE WESTERN U.S.

Location: Forage and Range Research

Title: Forage Kochia (Kochia Prostrata) for Fall and Winter Grazing

Authors
item Waldron, Blair
item Eun, Jong-Su -
item Zobell, Dale -
item Olson, Kenneth -

Submitted to: Small Ruminant Research
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: January 28, 2010
Publication Date: March 2, 2010
Citation: Waldron, B.L., Eun, J., Zobell, D.R., Olson, K.C. 2010. Forage Kochia (Kochia Prostrata) for Fall and Winter Grazing. Small Ruminant Research. 91:47-55.

Interpretive Summary: Kochia prostrata is a valuable fodder plant for sheep and goats in the temperate, semiarid and arid regions of central Asia. In these areas, it is known as the "alfalfa of the desert" and "a fattening feed for sheep". It is not as common in the semiarid western U.S., but its value as a forage for cattle, sheep, and wildlife has been recognized. It is extremely drought and salt tolerant, often growing in extremely harsh environmental conditions that preempt other plant species. Research and experience have shown that forage kochia is a very palatable and nutritious shrub, especially during the fall and winter when nutritional quality of other plants is low. Its nutritional characteristics include CP levels above the 70 g/kg needed for ruminant animals, acceptable fiber levels, low tannins and oxalates, and improved digestion kinetics when mixed with the low quality diets common during late summer, fall, and winter months. Forage kochia has the potential to improve the sustainability of small ruminant production in areas that are threatened with extended drought and increasing salinity.

Technical Abstract: Forage kochia (Kochia prostrata (L.) Scrad), also known as prostrate kochia, or prostrate summer cypress is a long-lived, perennial, semi-evergreen, half-shrub well adapted to the temperate, semiarid and arid regions of central Asia and the western U.S. In these areas, it has proven to be a valuable forage plant for sheep, goats, camels, cattle, and horses. Forage kochia is C4 plant that is extremely drought and heat tolerant, in part due to a tap root that can extend up to 6.5 m in depth. It is also very salt tolerant and well adapted to some ecosystems dominated by halophytic species. It has been reported to be very productive when grown in soils with salinity electrical conductivity (EC) levels approaching 20 dS/m, and capable of persisting at much higher EC levels. Forage kochia's biomass yield depends upon the subspecies and environment, but reports generally range from 1000 to 1800 kg/ha in environments receiving 100 to 200 mm annual precipitation. Studies and practical experience have shown that forage kochia is very palatable and nutritious, especially during the late-summer through winter period. Its nutritional characteristics include fall and winter crude protein levels above the 70 g/kg needed for gestating ruminants. It also has low tannins and oxalates and has not been reported to be a nitrate accumulator. When fed alone, it has acceptable fiber qualities, but research has shown that it can improve digestion kinetics when in a mixed diet with the low quality grasses as is common during late summer, fall, and winter months. Overall, forage kochia has the potential to improve the sustainability of small ruminant production in semiarid regions that frequently experience extended drought and saline conditions.

Last Modified: 9/23/2014
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