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Copyright 2005, Board of Trustees, University
Indian River Field Laboratory Mimeo Report 63-2 May 8, 1963
AN EVALUATION OF NEW WINTER AND SUMMER LEGUMES FOR SOUTH FLORIDA
Albert E. Kretschmer, Jr.J/
Testing of legumes for use as cattle feed by the University of Florida
Agricultural Experiment Stations began at the turn of the century. Alfalfa, red
clover, bur clover, vetches, white sweet clover, alsike clover, and other winter
legumes were suggested and used with periodic successes. At present white clover
is the most successful winter legume in south Florida. It grows vigorously, seeds
profusely, sometimes lives through the summer, competes favorably with the better
pasture grasses, is very palatable and nutritious, and plants readily emerge in
the fall from seeds produced previously. However, white clover produces little
forage during the summer and fall, and is not drought tolerant. Hairy indigo,
alyce clover and big trefoil, used to a limited extent in south Florida, are the
only summer-growing legumes that have proved successful in south Florida.
The legume variety testing program was initiated in 1950, and intensified in
1956 at the Indian River Field Laboratory in an effort to find winter annual
lovers that would (1) complement white clover by earlier or later forage product-
ion, (2) compete with permanent grasses and (3) produce sufficient hard seed to
assure natural germination. In 1956, additional work was begun to find summer-
growing perennial legumes that would grow rapidly in the summer in combination
with the grasses normally used in Florida.
Although none of these new species or varieties are yet recommended for
commercial use, results have shown several to be promising. Field testing of the
promising species was initiated in 1961 in commercial pastures. Some of these
winter annuals are used successfully in other areas of the United States, and
should be included in small plot tests by ranchers and dairymen in south Florida.
The more promising species of winter annual and summer-growing perennials
will be briefly discussed under separate headings.
More than 50 annual Trifolium (true clover) species including 225 varieties
have been tested. Of these, Berseem (T. alexandrinum), Persian (T. resupinatum),
ball (T. nigrescens), subterranean (T. subterraneum), T. isthmocarpon, and Mike
(T. michelianum) appear to be adapted to Florida conditions. The berseem, Persian,
sub and ball clovers have been seeded to small areas in at least two commercial
pastures and are discussed separately. All can be planted, using white clover
inoculant, in October and November. All have grown well under a fertilizer
program as recommended for white clover. Soil moisture requirements generally are
similar to those for white clover.
Berseem (Trifolium alexandrinum) Berseem (Egyptian clover) is the most important
legume in Egypt, and is planted extensively in the Mediterranean and Near East
countries. In the United States berseem clover has been used particularly in
1/ Associate Agronomist, Indian River Field Laboratory, Ft. Pierce, Florida.
California and Texas. It is characterized by its upright growth, white or
yellowish-white flowers, high moisture content, and palatability. It will with-
stand 250F temperatures or less of short duration without noticeable leaf damage.
Although killed back to the ground with temperatures of 200F or less, regrowth
from the crown is very rapid. It is the earliest clover of those showing promise,
and when planted about mid-October berseem clover can be grazed or chopped in the
latter part of December or in January. It normally yields considerable more
forage through March than does white clover. Because of its high moisture content
it is not satisfactory as a hay crop.
There are two types of berseem that have been tested at the Indian River
Field Laboratory. The variety Fahli is a single harvest variety that begins
flowering in January when seeded in October. Normally it will produce slightly
more early forage than the second variety Miscawi, which can be cut three to four
times during the season. Miscawi berseem flowers in March or April. Fahli re-
grows from stems and Miscawi produces new shoots from the crown in a manner
similar to alfalfa. Seeds are commercially available from Israel and seed for
Miscawi can be obtained from California. A broadcast seeding rate of 20 to 30
pounds per acre or 12 pounds per acre drilled should produce a good stand. Best
stands have been obtained by seeding to a clean cultivated field, however, in
two commercial plantings fair stands were obtained by seeding in established
pangolagrass. It is recommended that berseem clover be reseeded each year. How-
ever, there is some indication from small plot tests that by permitting sufficient
seed to be produced, a fair to good natural stand can be obtained the following
Persian (Trifolium resupinatum) Persian clover has been used without signifi-
cant success in Florida probably because of failure to re-establish each fall
from naturally produced seed, and due to its low production. Recently other
varieties that produce more forage have been introduced, and a variety that pro-
duces a large percent of hard seed has been developed in Texas. The faster grow-
ing varieties of Persian clover produce more forage in the spring than white
clover, and when cut at the one-fourth to full bloom stage make excellent hay.
When planted in October some varieties will bloom in January while others bloom
as late as April. The hard-seeded Texas variety belongs to the latter category.
Although it has not been released for commercial use seed should be available
within several years. Seeds from this variety have been planted in small areas of
five commercial pastures and has grown satisfactorily. Because of its lateness
however, seed production may be restricted during spring periods of extreme
Ball (Trifolium nigrescens) Ball clover was introduced into the United States
from Turkey. It has long succulent branching stems that grow in a prostrate to
partially upright position. The yellowish-white flowers are smaller but otherwise
quite similar to those of white clover. Flowers are produced at the ends of
branches, however. It has been increasingly used in Alabama where seed yields of
150 pounds per acre are not uncommon. It has reseeded well in Alabama and in
small plots at the Indian River Field Laboratory. Even under extreme grazing the
plants will produce abundant seed. Seedings in October or November generally will
have plants that bloom in February or March. The growth rate of ball clover is
negligent in the fall and winter, but in January growth rates appear to exceed
those for white clover. With one exception, the small plots in commercial pas-
tures in the Indian River area have all grown well and produced abundant seeds.
In one instance, the plants were badly damaged by virus. Because of the small
seeds, ball clover germination is poor when seeded in thick sods. It probably
should not be seeded until November when grass coverage is less. Earlier seedings
in clean cultivated soils or closely grazed pastures have been very successful if
seeds were not covered too deeply. Broadcast seeding rates of from 2 to 4 pounds
per acre are suggested. Commercial seed is available from Alabama;
Subterranean (Trifolium subterraneum) Sub clover is the basic legume in much of
Australia's pasture program. The vegetative growth somewhat resembles white
clover, but it produces seed near the ground, burying much of it in the surface
soil. Day length and temperatures affect flower initiation and seed production.
Of the 106 varieties tested at the Indian River Field Laboratory, the Nangeela,
Bacchus Marsh and Yarloop varieties appeared to have the most desirable character-
istics. It appears that Nangeela flowers too late under commercial management
practices for best seed production. Yarloop, because of its faster growth rates in
early spring and heavy seed production, can be classed as the best of the three.
It is not known whether sufficient hard seed will remain through the summer to
produce a good stand of seedlings in the fall. Although forage production by sub
clovers is probably less than white clover in the spring, the growth rate in the
winter is more rapid.
A broadcast seeding rate of about 10 pounds of seed per acre is suggested.
When seeded in October, Yarloop will begin to bloom in February or March. Seeds of
several sub-clover varieties are obtainable from California and almost all varieties
can be obtained from Australia.
Summer-growing perennial legumes are native to sub-tropical or tropical en-
vironments. They tend to be either shrubby or vine-like plants. More than 20
genera including 40 species and 100 varieties are beingtested at the Indian River
Field Laboratory. Because of their growth habits, and because grasses grow more
rapidly during the summertime, the management aspects of these summer legumes will
be different from those used for winter clovers. Five of the most promising
summer legumes will be discussed briefly. All of these are now established in
small plots in at least one commercial pasture.
Big Trefoil (Lotus uliginosus) Big Trefoil is a perennial, fine stemmed, leafy
legume that has vigorous underground spreading rhizomes. It is shallow rooted, is
said to lack drought resistance, grows best in moist soil and is said to persist
better under more acid soil conditions than does white clover. It grows rapidly
from late spring to fall. Good growth will occur between 65 and 850F. The two
general types can be characterized by having either (1) smooth or (2) hairy leaves
and stems. The hairy type produces more seed than the smooth type at the Indian
River Field Laboratory. In Florida, big trefoil may be planted in the fall or
spring making sure that grass competition is reduced and soil moisture is adequate.
A broadcast seeding rate of 2 to 4 pounds per acre is satisfactory. Field tests in
the Indian River area have shown that certain varieties are relatively frost and
drought resistant, react as perennials, and will produce abundant seeds that will
germinate from time to time as weather conditions permit. Although there was
considerable interest in planting Big Trefoil in Florida in the early 1950's there
is little commercial acreage devoted to this species at the present time. Commer-
cial seed is available from Oregon, especially of the hairy type (Beaver variety).
Lotononis bainesii This is a self-pollinating prostrate perennial legume that
is fine stemmed, small leaved, stoloniferous, suitable for pastute mixtures in
part of the subtropics and tropics. It prefers moist, friable soil on which it
withstands heavy grazing. It is said to grow on moderately acid soils. It is
highly palatable and non-toxic to stock and is frost tolerant but susceptible to
legume little-leaf virus. Reproduction is by seed or by vegetative means. This
legume has runners and tap roots grow from the nodes which are 1 to 3 inches apart.
It has tiny yellow flowers appearing in clusters on stems 6 to 9 inches long. L.
bainesii is said to combine well with numerous grasses including pangolagrass and
with white clover. It requires a special inoculant. The seeds are the smallest
of the legume species being tested at the Indian River Field Laboratory. A seed-
ing rate of about 1 pound per acre or less should be adequate. It seems to be
quite susceptible to soil-borne damping-off organisms (Rhizoctomia sp.) which may
prevent its growth during the late summer. However, because of its heavy seed
producing ability seedling germination appears to be good.
SThis perennial legume withstood less than 250 air temperatures without any
noticeable leaf burn, and survived the 1962-631winter in three commercial pastures
without apparent told damage. Several plants in a small plot in Auburn, Alabama
withstood a temperature of minus 10F. Heavy blooming begins in February and lasts
through May or June. A lighter seed producing period takes place in the fall.
L. bainesii has been established in small areas ih six commercial fields and is
under observation. It appears to be slightly more drought resistant than white
clover. At the Indian River Field Laboratory there are 5 varieties of this
species that are being compared to determine the best variety. Commercial seeds
are not available but there should be sufficient seed available at the Indian
River Field Laboratory for small plot tests by the ehd of this summer.
Siratro (Phaseolus atropurpureus) Siratro was bred from two Mexican strains of
Phaseolus atropurpureus by Dr. E. M. Hutton of Australia. It has a marked tenden-
cy for stoloniferous growth and will compete well with grasses. It will not per-
sist where frequent frosts occur, grows on moderately acid soils, is resistant to
legume little-leaf virus and root-knot nematode and is very drought resistant.
Preliminary tests at the Indian River Field Laboratory indicate that Siratro grows
very well in competition with pangolagrass. Plants established on June 20, 1962
were growing well and producing an abundance of seed at the time of the frost in
December 1962. Although the 250F temperatures resulted in complete kill of the
above-ground portions, plants were growing vigorously from the crown soon after
and flowering had commenced again in February. Flowering has continued with the
resultant heavy seed production. A seeding rate of 2 to 4 pounds per acre drilled
into rows three feet apart is satisfactory. There is no commercial production of
this seed in the United States. Seed will be available from Australia during the
coming year and there will be seed available at the Indian River Field Laboratory
for small plot tests in commercial fields by the end of this summer.
CentCentrentrosema pubescens) Centro is a summer-growing perennial legume native
to South America and has been used in many tropical and subtropical environments
as a cover crop. In Australia it is being used as a legume component of tropical
and subtropical pastures, particularly on well drained soils where annual rainfall
is greater than 45 inches. It is a vine-like, aggressive, leafy, drought resist-
ant legume. Fertilizer requirements are said to be low. Centro makes good hay
and is grazed by livestock when they become accustomed to it. Flowering occurs in
south Florida from about November until February4 Few seeds will be produced in
Florida except in frost free areas. However, since this is a perennial and has
survived at least 180F, the need for additional seed production may not be criti-
cal. Rapid growth of this legume does not begin until April or May but does
continue into the fall. Through proper management there is a possibility of
utilizing Centro, Siratro or Glycine growing with pangolagrass for a late fall
hay crop. A planting rate of 4 to 5 pounds per acre drilled into rows 3 feet
apart, or broadcast at higher rates and disked into the soil will result in satis-
factory stands of Centro. There have been moderate infestations of the bean leaf
roller at the Indian River Field Laboratory beginning about September 15 and
lasting into November. Nine varieties of Centro are being compared at the Indian
River Field Laboratory. Commercial quantities of seed may be obtained from Austra-
Glycine (Glycine javanica) Glycine is another creeping, vihe-like pereinial that
grows well in the warmer climates of Queensland, Australia and appears to have,a
potential in south Florida. Although it is slow growing immediately after plant-
ing, it is a very persistent perennial. Glycine has reacted in the same general
way as Centro in tests at the Indian River Field Laboratory and outlying commercial
pastures. Its seeding habits are similar to those for Centro, with a heavy seed
production occurring in late fall and winter. However, a smaller seed production
period occurs in March and April. The above-ground portions were killed back by
temperatures of 180 and 25*F, but regrowth occurred from the crowns in a manner
similar to that for Centro. Seed should be planted at a depth of 1/2 to 1 inch at
a rate of 4 pounds per acre. This should be done at a time when there is little
grass competition or simultaneously with the new planting of grass. Under irriga-
tion its growth has been fair to good at the Indian River Field Laboratory. It
does not seem to be attacked by the bean leaf roller as badly as Centro. However,
mite infestations have been noted for two years. It appears that Glycine is
susceptible to iron deficiency more than the other legumes being tested. Commer-
cial seed is available from Australia and there will be small quantities available
at the Indian River Field Laboratory within a year.
Results of the observations of these five summer-growing perennials definitely
have been optimistic. It is believed that within the next several years one or
more varieties will be used as a normal procedure by the cattlemen and dairymen
in South Florida.
IRFL Mimeo 63-2