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Common vetch

Spring vetch, or common vetch, (Vicia sativa) is a fodder crop related to annual legumes.

Spring vetch (Vicia sativa)
Spring vetch (Vicia sativa)
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©Harry Rose (CC BY 2.0)

Economic importance

Common vetch is one of the most important fodder crops. It gives a green mass, with a high protein content, and has good technological properties, which allows it to be used for fodder for the winter.

100 kg of green mass collected in the flowering phase contains 16.5-20 feed units and 4-4.5 kg of digestible protein. 100 kg of hay contains 45.8 feed units and 6.8-12.3 kg of digestible protein. 100 kg of grain contains 116 feed units and 22 kg of digestible protein.

Seeds, chaff and straw of spring common are used for fodder purposes. 1 feed unit corresponds to the content of digestible protein: in hay – 295 g, in green mass – 274 g, in grain – 196 g, in straw – 100 g.

In the green mass of mowing and stubble crops, the protein content is higher. For example, the protein content in the green mass of common vetch was 17.6% when sown in the spring, and 22.3% when sown for mowing (VNII fodder).

Stubble and post-harvest crops contribute to the cleansing of fields from weeds, reduce or prevent the action of water or wind erosion, enrich the soil with organic matter and nitrogen.

It has a bitter taste due to the alkaloids vicin and vicinin contained in it, therefore, in its pure form, it is not very well eaten by animals. This is one of the reasons why it is grown in a mixture with other well eaten crops, usually cereals. Such mixtures are usually more productive.

Common vetch and its mixtures with other crops are of great agrotechnical importance. In the forest-steppe zone, it is the most common fallow crop and serves as a good predecessor for cereals and other crops in crop rotations. It often plays the role of an insurance crop in years that are unfavorable for overwintering of perennial legume grasses. To replenish the forage areas of fallen crops, they are often resown with a vetch-oat mixture. Together with root and crop residues of spring vetch, 40-50 kg/ha of nitrogen enters the soil.

Stubble crops of vetch-oat mixture give high yields on the irrigated lands of the North Caucasus, Moldova, and southern Ukraine.

Crop history

Common vetch is considered an ancient culture originating from Western Asia and the Mediterranean, where it occurs in natural phytocenoses.

In Russia, it has been cultivated since the 15th-16th centuries. in the forest and forest-steppe zones, as well as in the north of the steppe zone.

Cultivation areas

Cultivated in the Non-Chernozem zone, forest-steppe regions with sufficient moisture in the Central Black Earth zone, Western Siberia. In arid areas and regions of insufficient moisture, it is rarely grown.


The yield of green mass of vetch and its mixtures in the forest-steppe zone is approximately 15-25 t/ha, hay – 4-6 t/ha, seeds – 1500-2000 kg/ha.

Botanical description

Spring vetch, or common vetch, (Vicia sativa L.) is an annual leguminous plant.

Taproot, well developed.

The stem is thin, clinging, decumbent, up to 50-100 cm long.

The leaves are paired, 5-8 pairs, ending in antennae.

The inflorescence includes 1-2 axillary sessile flowers, purple or red.

The fruit is an oblong, multi-seeded bean. Seeds are round or slightly flattened, dark, grey-green or white. Weight of 1000 pieces – 40-75 g.

Biological features

Common vetch is a long day plant. With a day length of 13-13.5 hours, the height of plants decreases and the formation of generative organs stops.

Sowing vetch is a cold-resistant, low-demanding culture. Seeds begin to germinate at a temperature of 2-3 °C, the optimum temperature for the appearance of uniform seedlings is 8 °C.

It tolerates frosts down to -5 … -7 °С. The optimum temperature for the formation of green mass is 12-16 ° C, for seed ripening – 16-20 °C.

The sum of active temperatures for the formation of green mass is 900 °C, seeds – 1900 °C.

Sowing vetch is a moisture-loving crop. With the total precipitation for May-July equal to 90-130 mm, the hay yield is no more than 1.5 t/ha, with a moisture content of 200-230 mm it reaches 4-6.5 t/ha. The maximum water consumption falls on the flowering phase. Optimal moisture is formed when the annual precipitation is not less than 450 mm.

Relatively demanding on soils. The soil should have a neutral or slightly acidic reaction, the optimal acidity is pH 5.0-6.5 (according to other sources, pH 6.0-6.8). Prefers connected fertile chernozems and lowland peatlands. Waterlogged, heavy, floating, waterlogged, solonetzic, sandy soils are unsuitable.

Biological features

When seeds germinate, the cotyledons remain in the soil. The first 2-3 leaves have only one pair of leaflets. On the 5th-6th day after germination, the growth of the main stem stops and branching begins.

Before the beginning of the flowering phase, the stems develop slowly, the average daily growth is no more than 1.5 cm, the height of the plants does not exceed 50 cm. During this period, 43-45% of the fodder mass is formed.

The flowering phase is extended. Flowers bloom from the lower tier of the plant to the upper. Beans begin to form from the lower flowers, while the upper ones only bloom.

Depending on weather conditions, flowering can last 20-30 days. Optional self-pollinator. In the period from the beginning of flowering to the formation of the first beans, the average daily growth of stems is 3.0-3.5 cm, the average daily growth of green mass increases from 0.47-0.51 to 1.17-1.55 t/ha.

By the time of fruit formation, the height of plants reaches 80 cm. By this period, the maximum yield of dry matter with the highest content of protein and nutrients is formed.

Flowering occurs 40-60 days after sowing, cutting maturity – after 55-70 days, seed ripening – after 75-120 days (depending on the variety).

The total length of the growing season for:

  • early maturing varieties is 75-90 days;
  • mid-season – 110-120 days;
  • late-ripening – up to 140 days.

Crop rotation

In the forest-steppe zone in crop rotations, vetch and its mixtures are placed for fodder after spring grain and tilled crops in a seeded fallow.

In field rotations, they are placed in a fallow field, harvested for hay or green fodder is carried out as early as possible to prepare the soil for sowing winter crops.

When cultivating for grain, they are placed after grain or tilled crops.

The vetch-oat mixture is suitable for cultivation on newly developed virgin and fallow lands.


Common vetch is responsive to the introduction of manure for the main tillage of 20-40 t/ha and P45-60K45-60.

Acidic soils are lime.

When sowing, simultaneously apply 50 kg/ha of granular superphosphate to the rows.


The main and pre-sowing tillage is similar to the tillage for early spring crops.


Sowing for fodder purposes is started in early spring, usually mixed with oats or other supporting plants.

Pre-sowing seed treatment includes dressing, treatment with bacterial preparations (pea rhizotorphin) on the day of sowing and molybdenum microfertilizers. Bacterial preparations increase the yield of hay by 15%. Molybdenum microfertilizers are especially effective in the Non-Chernozem zone.

Under conditions of sufficient soil moisture to provide a green conveyor, the vetch-oat mixture is sown in 2-3 terms with an interval of 7-15 days, as well as for mowing and stubble.

The method of sowing is the usual ordinary at the same time as grain, the ratio of components in the mixture is determined taking into account moisture. In the forest-steppe zone, with sufficient moisture supply, the proportion of oats is increased to prevent early lodging of the herbage, in the arid steppe it is reduced so that the vetch is less oppressed.

The highest collection of protein is obtained when the ratio of the number of seeds of vetch and oats is 2-3:1. The higher the proportion of vetch in the mixture, the earlier and stronger the grass stand lodging occurs. Therefore, the ratio of components is also determined taking into account the purpose of using the vegetative mass:

  • for green fodder – 2-3: 1;
  • for hay – 1-2: 1;
  • for haylage and silage – 1:1.
  • If later harvesting is planned, then the share of the cereal component is increased to prevent lodging of the herbage.

The total seeding rate when cultivated for fodder purposes is 4-5 million units/ha, or 180-220 kg/ha.

Seeding depth – 3-6 cm.

At late sowing dates, moisture-loving and non-heat-resistant oats can be replaced with drought- and heat-resistant cereal grasses, for example, Sudanese grass , sorghum-Sudanese hybrid, millet, paiza, chumizu, mogar. At the same time, under conditions of sufficient moisture in the second half of summer, some of them make it possible to obtain a second cut or aftermath, especially Sudanese grass and paisa. The general seeding rate for such grass mixtures is 100-120 kg/ha, of which 80-100 kg/ha is vetch and 20 kg/ha is Sudan grass.

During the summer sowing of vetch-cereal mixtures (cutting), the seeding rate is increased by 20-25%.

In some cases, repeated crops of common vetch, sown after the harvest of the first crop, can be used. In this case, the field is immediately processed and planting begins. Delay in sowing leads to a sharp decrease in yield. The seeding rate for re-sowing is increased by 15-20% compared to spring sowing. The depth of planting seeds, as a rule, increases to 4-5 cm, since a shallower incorporation causes thinning of crops.

Crop care

After sowing, the soil is rolled, followed by harrowing with light harrows. This technique is especially important during late spring and summer sowing to prevent rapid drying of the

Forage crops of vetch with oats or other fodder crops tend to be little damaged by pests and diseases, and severe infestation is rarely observed, so chemical control agents are used very rarely.


Harvesting for green fodder and hay is started during the full flowering period of the vetch. By harvesting for haylage and silage – in the phase of seed filling in the lower pods.

The optimal harvesting time also depends on the composition of the herbage. The larger the proportion of common vetch, the closer the harvesting time is shifted to the beginning of the pod formation phase. If oats predominate in the herbage, the harvesting time is shifted to the panicle heading phase, since later harvesting times lead to coarsening of the oats and a decrease in the quality of the feed.

Growing for seeds

For seed purposes, common vetch is usually sown in a mixture with another component as a supporting crop with a fairly strong stem, low foliage and similar growth and development. Usually it is oats or white mustard. Early maturing varieties of vetch can be sown in addition to late maturing oats, also with barley and white mustard.

When choosing a site for seed plants, it is necessary that the soil has an acidity of at least pH 4.5 (optimally pH 6.5-7.0), since spring vetch does not bloom on acidic soils or gives a low yield of puny seeds. It is placed in a field where manure was applied 2-3 years ago. Placement of seed plants in a manured field can cause heavy lodging of plants and poor maturation.

For the formation of 1 ton of seeds with the corresponding amount of above-ground mass, common vetch takes out 15 kg P2O5, 18 kg K2O and 65 kg N from the soil. Therefore, to obtain a high seed yield, apply phosphorus and potash fertilizers. The introduction of 90 kg/ha P2O5 in the form of superphosphate increases the yield of seeds by 25-30% and reduces the growing season by 4-5 days. The greatest strength of the stems of oats sown in a mixture with spring vetch, reaches the introduction of R 60 K 60 (All-Russian Research Institute of Fodder). Also, good results are obtained by the introduction of phosphorite flour for autumn plowing at 400-500 kg/ha.

Before sowing, the seeds are treated with molybdenum microfertilizers at the rate of 50-100 g of molybdenum diluted in 2 liters of water per hectare seed norm.

To prevent the development of diseases (ascochitosis, rot, anthracnose, bacteriosis, mold, etc.), seeds are treated with Fundazol, TMTD, Aktamyr.

With seed culture, the recommended ratio of vetch and oats is 2:1. In the north-west of the Non-Chernozem zone (Leningrad region), the share of vetch is reduced to 0.35-0.5 in relation to oats. In the northern regions of the Central Black Earth zone, the highest yields are obtained at a ratio of 3:1. In the central regions of the Non-Chernozem Zone, the best results are obtained at a seeding rate of 5.5 million/ha, including 1.1 million seeds of common vetch and 4.4 million seeds of oats, or in terms of weight – 50 kg/ha of spring vetch and 150- 160 kg/ha of oats .

According to the Lgovskaya Experimental Breeding Station VNIIS, in the Central Chernozem zone the best results are achieved at a seeding rate of 110-120 kg/ha of vetch and 50-60 kg/ha of oats. In Western Siberia, the recommended seeding rate is 80 kg/ha for vetch and 120 kg/ha for oats. In the Urals – no more than 1 million/ha of oat seeds and 2.2 million/ha of spring vetch seeds.

Good results are obtained by co-sowing vetch with white mustard. The seeding rate of mustard seeds is 6-8 kg/ha.

When sowing common vetch for seeds in its pure form, the seeding rate is 2-2.5 million/ha, or 120-130 kg/ha, however, in clean crops, it is difficult to harvest seeds.

Sowing is carried out as early as possible.

In crops, pre-emergence herbicides Prometrin and Gezagard can be used to control weeds.

Harvesting is started when the seeds in the beans of the lower and middle tiers reach the phase of waxy ripeness. Seeds can ripen well in beans. Usually, a separate harvesting method is used, but in years with a dry second half of the summer or when desiccants are used, direct combining is used.


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V.V. Kolomeichenko. Crop production / Textbook. — M.: Agrobusinesscenter, 2007. — 600 p. ISBN 978-5-902792-11-6.

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