Drought-resistant legume being studied as potential livestock forage
The pigeon pea, a subtropical, drought-resistant legume grown worldwide as a food staple, may have multiple U.S. applications, according to researchers at Texas A&M University, who received a $200,000 Southern Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education grant to study the crop.
Possible uses include as a forage for livestock, a garden crop, or edible landscape ornamental. “For the purposes of the grant, we wanted to look at pigeon pea as a forage for livestock producers,” said John Sloan, a soil scientist and associate professor with Texas AgriLife Research and Extension Center at Dallas. “One of the main purposes of the study was to determine if cattle would graze pigeon pea or ignore it in favor of grasses. We found that pigeon pea does well drilled no-till into Bermuda grass pastures. It grows slowly so it won’t outcompete the grass, and cattle will graze on it just fine. They don’t discriminate,” said Sloan.
However, the study’s results suggested that this was not the best way for farmers to utilize pigeon pea as a forage crop. “Without some sort of soil preparation, the uneven surface of most pastures will prevent proper functioning of the no-till planter and result in loss of seed and an inadequate population stand,” said Sloan. “Next, the area where the pigeon pea is planted will have to be protected from grazing cattle until the plants have reached an adequate size. If allowed to graze the area immediately after planting, the pigeon pea plants will probably not survive beyond the first trifoliate leaf stage.”
Sloan said that a better way to use pigeon pea as a forage is to plant it after wheat harvest in July and then graze cattle on it when it matures to its flowering stage in September or October.