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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Birdsfoot Trefoil Seed Production in North America

Author
item Beuselinck, Paul

Submitted to: Book Chapter
Publication Type: Book / Chapter
Publication Acceptance Date: April 15, 1997
Publication Date: N/A

Interpretive Summary: In 1934, birdsfoot trefoil (Lotus corniculatus L.) was recognized as a plant of forage value in the United States. It was a naturalized forage and was popular among farmers for 20-25 years because of its ability to grow on and populate soils of low fertility. Seeds threshed from naturalized meadows cut for hay generated enough seed for early purposes of testing and making small plantings. However, shattering losses during field curing were considerable, making it difficult to meet an increased demand for seed. Early work demonstrated that with improved fertility and handling to reduce seed loss, birdsfoot trefoil was capable of producing over 225 kg/ha of seed. Although birdsfoot trefoil has been grown for forage in other countries for centuries, the difficulty in obtaining seed has been the major obstacle to the increased use of birdsfoot trefoil. Sixty years after being recognized for its value as a forage in US agriculture, seed production remains the most difficult challenge to the widespread dissemination of this crop. This book chapter reviews the seed production of birdsfoot trefoil in North America with consideration for the biology of the crop and the management strategies used to enhance seed production. The effects of 1) producing non-certified versus certified seed and 2) increasing commerical emphasis on proprietary versus public cultivars, are presented.

Technical Abstract: Birdsfoot trefoil (Lotus corniculatus L.) is a valuable herbage legume in North America. Seed shattering and other characteristics of this crop make the commercial production of seed difficult. The difficulty in obtaining seed has been a major obstacle to the increased use of birdsfoot trefoil, and it remains the most difficult challenge to the widespread dissemination of this crop. Although commercial seed yields can approach 600 kg/ha, average yields range from about 50 to 175 kg/ha, and typically are 100 kg/ha or less. Indeterminate flowering, the limited distribution of photosynthate to reproductive growth, flower and pod abortion, and pod dehiscence lead to low seed yield. This book chapter reviews the seed production of birdsfoot trefoil in North America with consideration for the biology of the crop and management strategies used to enhance seed production.

Last Modified: 4/20/2014
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