Tropical pasture and feed crops
A wide variety of plants can be used as pasture and feed in the tropics. Over the years a limited number have become of great importance because of their adaptation, ease of growth, high yields, and nutritional value. Most of these are either grasses or legumes. Most of the grasses are highly suitable for permanent pastures, although a few are usually cut and carried to the animals. Unfortunately, there are few legume and grass combinations that are compatible in pastures of the tropics; however, we have recently added several new legumes suitable for mixed pastures and are eager to hear how they grow in various areas. In the case of leucaena and grass as a combination, an appropriate diet consist of 1/3 of the legume to 2/3 of the grass. Some of the legumes in our seedbank are trees. During drought or in the arid areas, the tree leaves are sometimes the only feed available.
See A Comparison of Tropical Pasture and Field Crops
• Alfalfa 'Alfagraze'. Medicago sativa. High-yielding, graze-tolerant alfalfa developed for Florida; soil pH>6.5 (EDN 40-6).
• Buckwheat. Fagopyrum esculentum. See Grain Crops.
• Centrosema pascuorum 'Cavalcade'. Prostrate annual legume for seasonally dry tropics; extremely drought-tolerant. Survives seasonal flooding. Wide soil adaptation, pH 5-8.5 and sand to heavy clay. Requires high growing season temperatures.
• Clover, Cherokee Red. Trifolium pratense. Warm [not hot]-climate clover suitable for tropical highlands; N-fixing legume that can be multiple cut, producing high biomass; likes loams with good moisture; is root-knot nematode tolerant.
• Clover, Crimson. Trifolium incarnatum. Cold-tolerant legume sown in autumn for overwintering and harvest in spring; grows fast; fixes N.
• Clover, Osceola White. Trifolium repens. Perennial warm [not hot]-climate clover suitable for tropical highlands. Can not tolerate long dry seasons and remain a perennial.
• Cratylia argentea.A shrub legume well adapted to very acidic soils of low fertility, grows and establishes quickly, drought tolerant; palatable forage if leaves are wilted for a few hours after cutting.
• Desmanthus virgatus. A browse shrub which is palatable, aggressive, persistent, non-toxic to livestock, tolerates heavy grazing, and fixes nitrogen.
• Desmodium intortum, Greenleaf. Perennial legume which grows well in cool temperatures; frost susceptible; produces seed in short days. Tolerates acid conditions and poorly drained or waterlogged soils. Not for areas with less than 890 mm rain.
• Forage peanut, Arachis hypogea 'Pintoi'. Persistent perennial for well-drained soils of moderate fertility and >1000mm rain. Our seeds have exhibited very low germination-ask for large amounts.
• Glycine. Neonotonia wightii. Perennial vining legume for areas with 760-1525mm annual rain. Requires moderately fertile soils, good drainage; not tolerant of waterlogged or very acidic soils. High nitrogen production. Often intercropped with grasses, but can be slow to establish. 'Cooper' is early flowering, vigorous, drought resistant. 'Malawi' is slower to establish but withstands heavy grazing and adverse weather conditions in poor soils.
• Hairy Indigo. Indigofera hirsuta.See Ground Covers and Green Manures.
• Jack bean. Canavalia ensiformis. Not preferred by livestock, but they will eat it when other choices disappear in the dry season. See under Leguminous Vegetables.
• Joint Vetch, American. Aeschynomene americana. Short-lived perennial for wetland areas (>1000mm annual rain), including low-lying ditches with seasonal flooding. Regenerates well naturally in pastures. Also used as a green manure. Aeschynomene evenia also availablle.
• Kudzu, tropical. Pueraria phaseoloides. Not the weedy temperate kudzu; vigorous ground cover. (EDN 12-6).
• Lablab bean. Dolichos lablab.. (see above). Highworth and Rongai make excellent feed crops. Very vigorous annual; grows well in warm, humid conditions but is also drought resistant. Cool tolerant. Palatable; produces much high-protein feed. See Leguminous Vegetables.
• Leucaena. Leucaena diversifolia. Better than L. leucocephala for 500-2000 m and higher rainfall levels. Not drought tolerant. Fodder quality lower than L. leucocephala but lower in mimosine. Varieties K-156 and K-784 are good for hedgerows, intercropping, and alley cropping. Leucaena leucocephala. To 1000 m. pH 4.3-8.7, ideal 6.1-8. Moderate drought tolerance; not for acid soils. Fast growth, coppices well. Leaves a fodder supplement (small amounts only). Salvador (Hawaiian giant) varieties. K28, K67 [high seed production]-tall and tree-like. Peruvian K6-tall with extensive branching; good forage. Cunningham K500-excellent forage. K4, K743 [hybrid]-low in mimosine, a toxin when fed to animals in quantity. K636-resistant to the defoliating psyllid.
• Siratro. Macroptilium atropurpureum. Deep-rooted perennial for areas with 760-1780mm annual rain. Withstands heat and drought on a wide range of soils. Establishes quickly; persistent even under heavy grazing. Seeds viable in soil to 5 years.
• Sorghum (Forage). Sorghum bicolor. Stalks can at times cause cyanide poisoning in livestock.
• Stylo. Common Stylo, Stylosanthes guianensis 'Cook': suited to warm humid zones with >1525mm annual rain; tolerant of low fertility, acidic, and poorly drained soils; varies in palatability to animals. This cultivar is of highlands origin, vigorous, high yielding. Caribbean Stylo, Stylosanthes hamata 'Verano': suitable for 600-1700mm annual rain; heat-loving plant; cold impairs growth. Shrubby Stylo, Stylosanthes scabra 'Seca': hardy perennial; very drought tolerant; thrives on infertile soils.
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