Legumes are very important in animal fodders. India has rich diversity in forage legume crop genetics. Season based legume crops are available in India like summer, rainy and winter season legume. Winter legumes are major crops in India having almost 60% market share in revenue. Berseem and Lucerne are the big tickets for winter and perennial cropping. In Summer and rainy season many option but Cow is the major contributor. Forage have all 3 major crops in portfolio. 1st time Forage launched indeterminate cow-pea for intercropping with cereal crops in India.
Legumes are quick growing forage crops. Lgumes usually grown solo crops and mixed with cereal fodders and grasses to improve the nutritive value of the herbage. It contains
- 20 –24 % crude protein,
- 43 - 49 % neutral detergent fibre,
- 34 – 37 % acid detergent fibre,
- 23–25 % cellulose and
- 5 – 6 % hemicelluloses on dry matter basis.
- The digestibility of cowpea fodder is above 70%.
- Legumes can be grown large type of soils and under partial shaded conditions.
- Legume are an excellent cover crops, which suppresses weeds and enriches the soil.
- Legumes requires warm climate and cool climets depends on crop.
- Perennial legumes can be grown in kharif as well as in zaid season.
- Legumes can be grown on variety of soils.
- The plants prefer light soils. Loam and sandy loam soils with good drainage are most suitable for good crop growth.
- Field should be prepared by two cross harrowing and planking so as to get a leveled and weed free seed bed for quick germination and faster initial growth
Soil and its preparation
- In irrigated areas, sowing can be done during summer while in rainfed areas, it can be done after commencement of rains.
- Winter crops should be sown in the months of Sep to November.
- Berseem and Lucerne crops grows well in winter season and gives cuts till April and May
- Perennial Lucerne is increasing the acreage because of its quality forage character.
- In southern region, sowing of crop for fodder may be done throughout the year.
- Cowpea - 35-40 kg/ha is sufficient for its proper plant population.
- Berseem and Lucerne – 20 - 25kg/ ha
- The sowing should be done in lines at an inter row spacing of 25-30 Cm.
Seed rate and sowing method
- Intercropping of sorghum with forage legumes, improves quality of fodder and soil health.
- leguminous crop and has capacity to fix atmospheric nitrogen. However, for good growth 20 kg N and 60 kg P O /ha should be applied at the time of sowing for good crop growth. In sulphur deficient soils (below 10 ppm), 20-40 kg sulphur per hectare is recommended for quality fodder biomass production.
- Normally the Kharif season crop does not require irrigation except in case of long dry spells in which the crop should be irrigated at an interval of 10-12 days. But, summer crop requires 6-7 irrigations at 8-10 days interval.
- In general Kharif crops are densely infested with weeds due to conducive situation for growth. In cowpea, the weed problem is severe in early stages.
- After 30 days the crop covers the land area and thus, problem of weed infestation is minimized. One manual weeding or hoeing with weeder cum mulcher at 3 weeks crop stage is effective to check weed growth.
- Pre-plant soil incorporation of Trifluralin or Fluchloralin @ 0.75 kg a.i. /ha has been found useful chemical weed management method to arrest weed growth.
- Lucerne takes a long time to establish itself and gives ample scope for weed infestation up to the first cutting. It is very difficult to control weeds in broadcast crop. If crop is sown in lines, weeding and hoeing become easier. First weeding should be done 20-25 days after sowing. Pre-emergence application of Pendimethalin @1-2 kg a.i./ha or post emergence application of Diquat @ 6-10 kg/ha (5-10 days after sowing) effectively controls Cuscuta.
- The weed management is one of the vital components of berseem cultivation. The major associated weed of berseem crop is kasani/chicory (Chicorium intybus). The nature of this weed is such that it infests from field to seed and vice-versa. The intensity of field infestations could be minimized by treatment with 10% solution of common salt and deep summer ploughing with soil inversion plough after final harvest of the crop
- Rainy season crop is harvested after 50-60 days of sowing at 50% flowering stage whereas summer crop requires few more days and should be harvested after 70-75 days of sowing.
- Under irrigated condition, cowpea crop yielded 25-30
- First cut of the berseem can be taken at 55 days after sowing. Subsequent cuts are taken 25-30 days after previous cut. The number of cuts depends on the length of winter season and management practices.
- The first cut is taken 50-55 days after sowing and the subsequent cuts at an interval of 25-30 days, when crop attains the height of 60 cm from the surface of the soil. In a year, 8-10 cuts can be taken between October-April with 80-120 t/ha green fodder and 18- -20 t/ha dry fodder. The perennial varieties can be retained for 3-4 years in the same field.