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Tropical legume could be alternative hay/forage crop for Texas

OVERTON Lablab, a drought-tolerant, summer annual legume native to the tropics, could be a valuable addition to the Texas forage repertoire, according to a Texas Agricultural Experiment Station scientist.

"An accelerated lablab breeding and evaluation program will start for this summer to provide improved cultivars for both livestock and wildlife management systems in Texas," said Dr. Ray Smith, Experiment Station legume breeder based at the Texas A&M University System Agricultural Research and Extension Center at Overton.

Forage scientists have had lablab on their radar screens for some time. The tropical legume forage can be grazed, cut as hay or grown in mixtures with corn or sorghum and harvested as silage. It can produce nearly 2 tons of dry forage per acre in 100 days with leaf protein content as high as 25 percent. It's not known how much lablab is grown in the United States, but most seed is currently imported from Australia.

"Lablab has about the same forage production and nutritive value potential as Iron and Clay cowpeas," Smith said. "Compared to bermudagrass, it's generally going be higher in protein."

But while cattle don't like cowpeas, they find lablab forage highly palatable. White-tailed deer, which can be picky eaters, will also browse lablab, making it a good, low-management crop for supplemental feed in wildlife plots.

It can be grown in various environments throughout the Southeastern United States and thrive on as little as 10 to 15 inches of rainfall during the growing season. And as do all legumes, lablab can fix nitrogen from the air where forage grasses need supplemental nitrogen. The price of nitrogen fertilizers, tied to the costs of oil and natural gas, is rising. So an alternative high-protein forage legume such as lablab could make sense both economically and environmentally, Smith said.

More importantly, there's also the possibility of it becoming a value-added seed crop f
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Contact: Robert Burns
rd-burns@tamu.edu
903-834-6191
Texas A&M University - Agricultural Communications
6-May-2004


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