Evaluation of herbaceous legume germplasm for coastal lowland East Africa

Herbaceous legume germplasm comprising 62 accessions of 18 species were selected for their potential suitability to tropical coastal lowland environments and were evaluated in three agro-ecological zones (AEZ) of Kenya's coastal lowlands. Three accessions were local genotypes with proven productivity, whereas the other 59 were received from ILCA's genebank. The AEZs were the coconut/cassava zone (semi-humid with "high" annual rainfall: 1050-1230 mm); cashewnut/cassava zone (transitional, "medium": 920-1000 mm); livestock/millet (semi-arid, "low": 800-900 mm). At each site rainfall is bimodal. Soils at the evaluation sites are sandy, low in organic matter and plant nutrients. The herbaceous legumes were assessed for the effects of harvesting at 3, 6, 9 and 12 months after planting on productivity and survival. Harvesting either once, twice, thrice or four times within the year from date of planting was also evaluated. Germination was generally good (over 60 percent) for most accessions at all sites. At the semi-humid site, dry matter (DM) production increased progressively in each delay of the first cut in contrast to the semi-arid site where the changes in DM production were less pronounced. DM yields from the semi-humid site averaged 0.24, 0.54, 0.56 and 0.71 kg/metre row (kg/m) for harvesting after 3, 6, 9 and 12 months following planting. The species that showed high persistence at both semi-humid and semi-arid sites included Macroptilium atropurpureum, Clitoria ternatea, Centrosema pubescens, Neonotonia wightii and Macroptilium lathyroides. Pueraria phaseoloides, Galactia striata and Centrosema arenarium showed persistence under frequent harvesting in the semi-humid site, while only Centrosema virginianum was persistent at the semi-arid site. Generally, plots that were harvested four times per year gave the highest cumulative DM yields. At the "high" rainfall site, the mean yields for the 12 most persistent and highest yielding selections were 1.34, 1.25, 1.10, 0.71 kg DM/m for four, three, two and one cut(s), respectively. At the semi-arid site cumulative DM yield was on average 60 percent lower and the dry season yields were about 25 percent less than the other harvests due to heavy leaf drop. At the "medium" rainfall site, establishment of most legumes was poor as they were sown towards the end of the rainy season. In terms of plot cover and survival five accessions of Clitoria ternatea were amongst the seven best performing legumes. For coastal lowland East Africa, Macroptilium atropurpureum and Clitoria ternatea are among the most productive herbaceous legumes. Good performance of Lablab purpureus, Macrotyloma axillare and Calopogonium mucunoides during early cuts indicate that a range of herbaceous legume germplasm is available that may require further testing in agronomic experiments on inter-, and relay-cropping and in studies of nutritive value as feeds and resulting livestock performance.
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Sustainable feed production and utilisation for smallholder livestock enterprises in sub-Saharan Africa. Proceedings of a workshop, Ndikumana, J.Leeuw, P. de (eds.).- Nairobi (Kenya): AFRNET, 1996.- ISBN 92-9146-019-2
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p. 11-18
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