Skip to main content
ARS Home » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #115725


item Devine, Thomas

Submitted to: Proceedings of The Faba Bean Workshop
Publication Type: Proceedings
Publication Acceptance Date: 6/25/2000
Publication Date: N/A
Citation: N/A

Interpretive Summary: This report is a brief review describing the initiation of breeding programs with winter annual legume cover crops. Subterranean clover and hairy vetch are planted in the fall and initiate growth before winter. The vegetation covers the soil surface during the fall, winter, and early spring, and thus protects the soil from erosion by rain and wind. Since these plants are legumes, they form a symbiosis with specialized bacteria called rhizobia. The rhizobia form nodules on the plant roots where they take nitrogen from the air and convert it into a form that the plant can use to make proteins. The next crop planted after the cover crop can use this nitrogen. This report describes the breeding program initiated to improve the winter hardiness of subterranean clover and to achieve earlier flowering in hairy vetch. Improvement of these characteristics will make these crops more useful to farmers and encourage their use in sustainable agricultural systems. Use of these species will benefit the environment by reducing siltation of streams, rivers and lakes and will preserve the ability of our soils to produce healthy food for consumers at reasonable prices.

Technical Abstract: Plant breeding has been exceptionally valuable in modifying crop plants for improved use in agriculture. Winter annual legumes can serve as cover crops to protect the soil from soil erosion and provide a thatch to suppress weed growth. Subterranean clover and hairy vetch have a role as cover crops. Because subterranean clover lacks consistent winter survival, a breeding program has been initiated to improve its winter hardiness. A breeding program has been initiated to develop hairy vetch cultivars with earlier flowering. Earlier flowering will permit subduing the vetch in a more timely manner for planting the subsequent crop. Fall planting of faba bean shows promise for producing a fresh vegetable cash crop as well as providing crop residue for soil cover during the winter.