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Crop Science Abstract - Scientific Perspectives

Perspective on Forage Legume Systems for the Tallgrass and Mixed-Grass Prairies of the Southern Great Plains of Texas and Oklahoma


This article in CS

  1. Vol. 52 No. 5, p. 1971-1979
    unlockOPEN ACCESS
    Received: Dec 21, 2011

    * Corresponding author(s): tjbutler@noble.org
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  1. T. J. Butler *a and
  2. J. P. Muirb
  1. a The Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation, 2510 Sam Noble Pkwy., Ardmore, OK 73401
    b Texas AgriLife Research, 1229 N. Hwy. 281, Stephenville, TX 76401


Legumes have potential to transfer fixed N to nonlegume crops via grazing or decomposition as well as improve production, seasonal distribution, nutritive value, soil structure, and fertility in forage systems. This article summarizes the legume establishment, management, and grazing production experiments conducted in the southern Great Plains. It attempts to give perspective on the current state of producer adoption and the potential for future research to improve legume adoption. Several medics (Medicago spp.) and clovers (Trifolium spp.) are compatible and can be established with tall fescue [Schedonorus arundinaceus (Schreb.) Dumort]; however, due to limited precipitation, these have not reliably regenerated. Hairy vetch (Vicia villosa Roth) required annual establishment and was not as economical as N fertilizer in the perennial grass systems, but it was profitable and comparable to the annual system with 112 kg N ha−1 by conventional fertilizer. Alfalfa (Medicago sativa L.) may have the greatest potential in the southern Great Plains with cool-season perennial grass systems like tall fescue when planted in a checkerboard orientation. An alternative approach for utilizing legumes may be to limit grazing access in pure stands similar to a supplementation program during periods of limited forage production or quality. There is a need for greater research including germplasm and rhizobia evaluations, improved seed production, weed control, and grazing before producer adoption becomes widespread. Future research should address constraints including legume establishment, management practices that extend the life of legumes in forage systems, and appropriate economic analysis of proposed novel systems.

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