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Hairy vetch

Hairy vetch, or winter vetch, (Vicia villosa) is a forage crop related to annual legumes.

Hairy vetch (Vicia villosa)
Hairy vetch (Vicia villosa)
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©Matt Lavin (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Economic importance

Hairy vetch belongs to two-handled, but is grown as a winter crop. It is the only legume that is sown simultaneously with group I winter cereals. It can be grown during spring, summer mowing and stubble crops.

Due to its high fodder qualities, it is a valuable leguminous plant. Used fresh, for harvesting silage, haylage, hay, etc. Winter crops of vetch-rye mixture can be used for early spring grazing.

It is well eaten by animals, especially when mixed with cereal herbs in green or canned form. When sown in autumn, it provides early forage in spring with a high protein content. According to the data of the Voronezh Agricultural University, the use of hairy vetch in mixed crops with winter cereals increases the forage yield by 20-50%, the protein content by 1.5-2.0 times, with a lower feed cost.

The protein content in the above-ground dry mass before cutting for hay is 15-25%, fat – 1.4-2.4%, nitrogen-free extractives – 17-29%.

When sown in autumn, it can also serve as an annual early spring pasture, since it begins to bloom in May, while when sown in spring, mixed with oats, barley or Sudanese grass, it is suitable for grazing in late summer and autumn, flowering in this case occurs in mid-July.

After mowing or grazing, it grows back in 20-25 days. Rye is considered less suitable for fodder mixtures with hairy vetch than wheat, since rye coarsens by the time the vetch blooms. If this mixture is cut earlier, the yield will be reduced.

Hairy vetch is characterized by early maturity, high productivity and quality. It is not inferior to other legumes in terms of fodder qualities. The disadvantages of the culture include leaf fall and a bitter taste due to the presence of vicin and vicinin alkaloids. However, in mixed, the latter disadvantage is almost not manifested.

100 kg of green mass contains 13.7 feed units and 3.1 kg of digestible protein. 100 kg of hay contains 46.2 feed units and 12.4 kg of digestible protein. 100 kg of hay of a vetch-rye mixture – 48.5 feed units and 8.7 kg of digestible protein.

Hairy wiki protein includes all the essential amino acids. Protein digestibility coefficients are 69%, protein 65%, fiber 45%, fat 60%, BEV 68%.

Hairy vetch is also of agrotechnical importance, as it serves as an excellent predecessor in crop rotation for grain, fodder and row crops. Well suited as a green manure.

Honey plant.

With the breeding of the winter-hardy variety Glinkovskaya, it became possible to expand the sowing of this crop in the forest-steppe and steppe zones as a fallow-occupying and intermediate fodder crop. All crops of winter grain crops intended for early green fodder and partially for grain should be sown in a mixture with this variety.

As a spring crop, hairy vetch is cultivated in mixtures with oats, barley, annual ryegrass, Sudan grass, paisa, sorghum-Sudanka hybrid, millet, corn, mogar, chumiza, and sunflower.

Crop history

Hairy vetch is found in the wild in Western Asia and the Caucasus and is common there as a weed.

It has been grown in culture since the 19th century, but in some countries of Western Europe it has not received wide distribution.

Cultivation areas

The main areas of cultivation: the southern regions of the Non-Chernozem zone, the Voronezh, Tambov, Kursk regions, also in the North Caucasus, the western regions of the forest zone of the European part of the country.

The culture does well in regions with mild winters.


The yield of green mass is usually 20-30 t/ha, hay 4-5 t/ha.

According to long-term experimental data of the Gorsky Agricultural Institute, the yield of a green mixture of winter rye and hairy vetch was 29.3 t/ha. According to the Kuban Agricultural Institute, the yield of green mass of a mixture of hairy vetch and winter wheat is 23.0 t/ha.

With good agricultural practices, the yield of seeds collected from vetch-rye crops is 960 kg/ha of vetch seeds and 2000 kg/ha of rye grain.

Botanical description

The genus of vetch (Vicia) includes over 150 species, including 36 annuals. Only three are used in agricultural production:

  • sowing vetch, or spring, – V. sativa L .;
  • hairy vetch, or winter, or sandy, – V. villosa Roth;
  • Vika Pannonian, or Hungarian, – V. pannonica Crantz.

Winter vetch, or hairy vetch, or sand vetch (Vicia villosa Roth).

The root is well developed, thin, taproot, has numerous lateral branches.

The stem is thin, strongly pubescent, branched, 70-120 cm high, quickly decumbent.

The leaves are paired, ending in a tendril. Number of leaflets 6-8-10 pairs, lanceolate, pubescent.

The inflorescence is an elongated axillary multiflorous raceme. The number of flowers in the inflorescence reaches 30. The color of the corolla is purple or reddish. Flowering begins from the lower flowers. Cross pollination.

The fruit is a bean of dark brown or yellow-brown color, flattened, elongated rhombic. The number of seeds in a bean is 2-8. Seeds are spherical, spotted, black or dark brown. Weight of 1000 seeds 25-31 g.

Biological features

Heat requirements

Vika shaggy is moderately demanding to heat.

Seeds begin to germinate at a temperature of 1-3 °C, the optimum temperature for the appearance of uniform seedlings is 14-18 °C. In the first phases of development, it requires relatively elevated temperatures. Seedlings are able to tolerate frosts down to -3…-6 ° С.

With the transition to winter, dry, clear weather is favorable with daytime temperatures of +10-12 °C, night temperatures – 0 °C, which contributes to the hardening of plants and an increase in winter hardiness.

At the beginning of the spring growing season, the optimum temperatures are 12-16 °C, in the budding phase 15-17 °C. During this period, frosts down to -5 °C are fatal. In the phases of flowering, pollination and seed filling, the average daily air temperature should be 16-22 °C and relative humidity of at least 50%. A good filling occurs at 16-20 °C, at temperatures above 25 °C, the proportion of hard seeds increases.

Frost resistance and winter hardiness are low. However, opinions about winter hardiness among scientists are ambiguous. Spring varieties of hairy vetch can freeze even during mild winters; dvuhruchki overwinter well, the highest winter hardiness in winter forms. Thus, the winter variety Glinkovskaya, in the complete absence of snow, overwintered by 90%, while winter wheat completely died (Voronezh Agricultural University).

Freezing of winter forms in the Central Chernozem zone is observed at
a temperature at a depth of occurrence of renewal buds of -18…-20 °C (Korenev G.V., Zhitin Yu.I., 1990). With stable snow cover, it tolerates temperatures up to -25…-30 °С.

Sharp fluctuations in temperature in winter and variable thawing and freezing of the soil, especially in the spring, are dangerous, which leads to mass death of plants.

In some years, there may be a significant thinning of crops due to damping and soaking.

Moisture requirements

Moisture-loving plant. More drought tolerant than spring vetch.

Moisture consumption depends on the vegetation phase.

During germination, the seeds consume at least 100% of their mass of water. The reserve of productive moisture in the sowing horizon should be at least 10 mm, in the arable – 40-50 mm. Excess moisture can lead to the death of seeds due to lack of oxygen.

Optimum soil moisture before flowering 70-80% of the lowest moisture capacity, during the formation and filling of seeds 60-70% of the lowest moisture capacity. Higher humidity leads to inhibition of plants.

Despite drought resistance, hairy vetch does not tolerate severe drying of the soil. When the soil moisture is less than 30% of the field moisture capacity, the complete death of plants is noted.

Light requirements

Shade tolerant, shade tolerant. During the period of autumn development, clear sunny weather is favorable for plants, which contributes to the development of the underground part of the shoots, the accumulation of sugars and an increase in winter hardiness.

Long day plant. The duration of daylight hours and the intensity of illumination directly affect the activity of nitrogen fixation.

Soil requirements

It is undemanding to the soil. It can grow on light sandy, sandy, calcareous soils, as well as soils with a high lime content.

Chernozem, breathable, deep-humus, well-filled soils with a neutral or slightly acidic reaction are optimally suited. pH 6-7.

It grows poorly on heavy, clayey, swimming, waterlogged and acidic soils, tolerates salinization.

In depressions of the relief it can get wet, on hills, where snow is easily blown away, it can freeze.


Vegetation usually begins in the fall and ends in the summer of the following year. Taking advantage of favorable autumn conditions, it forms a larger biomass than common vetch.

A polymorphic species, according to the type of development, is represented by a complex population of biotypes, among which there are two-handled, spring and winter forms.

Phenological phases:

  • germination;
  • seedlings;
  • branching;
  • budding;
  • bloom;
  • bean formation;
  • maturation.

When sowing in the fall, the first three phases take place in the fall, the rest – in the spring and summer of the next year.

During germination, it does not bring cotyledons to the soil surface. Germination ends with the formation of a seedling and root. The first nitrogen-fixing nodules are laid 6-10 days after germination, after 14 days they can already provide the plants need for nitrogen.

Branching begins 7-15 days after germination. The main stem stops growing and dies.

Lateral shoots are formed from a node close to the soil surface. Vetch hairy part has underground tillering nodes, from which new shoots are formed. According to the type of shoot formation, three types of development are distinguished:

  • spring – during autumn and spring sowing, shoots are formed only from aboveground branching nodes;
  • two-handled – when sown in autumn, the formation of shoots occurs from
    underground and above-ground buds, during spring – mainly from above-ground;
  • at any time of sowing, underground shoot formation prevails.

When sown in autumn, it blooms 1.5 months after the complete disappearance of the snow cover and continues until harvest. When sown in spring – 60-65 days after germination. Flowering is extended.

Hairy Vika is a typical entomophile. Pollination occurs mainly by honey bees and bumblebees.

Stems grow relatively quickly. Their greatest growth falls on the period from budding to the end of flowering. The maximum average daily accumulation of dry matter is noted in the flowering phase.

The transition from flowering to fruit formation is implicit, since the phases overlap each other. Ripening usually occurs 30-40 days after flowering.


Hairy vetch is usually grown as a winter crop mixed with winter cereals. It is also sown in spring and summer mixed with spring cereals.

In the forest-steppe zone, hairy vetch and its mixtures are placed after early harvested grain and leguminous crops, corn for green fodder.

For green fodder, hairy vetch is sown in a mixture with rye in a busy fallow or stubble after harvesting winter crops. Stubble crops are effective in the south of the country with a warm, long autumn and sufficient rainfall.

For seeds, it is better to place it in a fodder, vegetable or farm rotation, so as not to sow the subsequent crop with carrion. When placing seed crops in a field crop rotation, perennial grasses are sown under it. In this case, the vetch shoots emerging from the carrion will develop along with the oversown grasses and will be harvested along with the perennial grasses. In some cases, after harvesting hairy vetch for seeds, annual grasses or tilled crops are sown to help clear the field of fallen seeds.

In the steppe of Ukraine, the cultivation of hairy vetch with winter wheat often gives a greater yield of green mass than in a mixture with rye or barley. In the Carpathian region, it is sown in mixtures with rye or winter rapeseed. A mixture of hairy vetch with winter rapeseed allows you to get green fodder 7-12 days earlier than a mixture with winter rye.


Hairy vetch does not respond well to increased soil acidity. Therefore, liming leads to an increase in the yield of hay and seeds. For example, liming the soil at 0.5 hydrolytic acidity increased the yield of the vetch-rye mixture by 27.6% (All-Russian Research Institute of Fodder).

Mineral fertilizers increase the winter hardiness of plants. Thus, the introduction of 250 kg/ha of superphosphate, 100 kg/ha of potassium chloride and 150 kg/ha of ammonium nitrate for presowing cultivation increased the winter hardiness of hairy vetch. For 2-3 years, the number of surviving plants after overwintering on the fertilized variant averaged 89.2%, on the control – 57.3% (Research Institute of Agriculture of the Central Non-Black Soil Zone).

Phosphorus-potassium fertilizers help to increase the yield of vetch, nitrogen – cereal components.

In the Non-Chernozem zone, under the vetch-rye mixture, it is recommended to pre-sow phosphorus-potassium fertilizers in the norm P60K60. In the spring, top dressing N30-45 is done. In general cases, P30K30 is applied under the main treatment, when sowing in rows P10-15 and in the spring in top dressing N20-30.

Hairy vetch is responsive to organic fertilizers. For example, the introduction of 20-30 t/ha of manure increased the share of vetch in the crop by 16.2% (Chernigov Agricultural Experimental Station). If winter vetch-cereal mixtures are grown as fallow-occupying crops, up to 40 t/ha of manure is applied under them.


When sowing in autumn, the usual system of steam tillage is used. When sowing in spring – autumn cultivation and pre-sowing spring cultivation with harrowing.


Hairy vetch is sown for 2 weeks before the optimal sowing time for winter rye, the latter is sown on vetch shoots. Simultaneous sowing of vetch and rye at the optimal time for the latter does not allow the vetch to develop well enough and leads to its almost complete death in the winter. The same recommendation holds for winter wheat and triticale.

The best time for sowing for fodder in the forest-steppe zone is August 15-20. Cereal components in this zone can be sown simultaneously with it, but it can also be sown according to its seedlings.

Recommended autumn sowing rates for the Nonchernozem zone are 100 kg/ha of hairy vetch and 60 kg/ha of winter rye; in Ukraine and the North Caucasus – 60-80 kg/ha of vetch seeds and winter rye.

When sowing hairy vetch mixed with oats in spring, the recommended sowing rate for vetch is 120 kg/ha, for oats 80 kg/ha. Sowing the mixture is carried out as early as possible.

In the forest-steppe and steppe zone, when grown for fodder, the recommended sowing rate is 2 million pcs/ha, or 60 kg/ha of vetch seeds and 2 million pcs/ha of winter

Mixtures of hairy vetch with corn or sunflower are sown with row spacing of 45 cm.

Seeding depth 4-6 cm, followed by rolling.

Crop care

Depending on the condition of the plants emerging from under the snow, spring tillage consists in loosening with medium harrows in one track or, in case of poor development, with rotary hoes.

Hairy vetch, as well as other leguminous crops, is often affected by fungal diseases. The complete death of crops is rare, but the yield reduction can reach 20-30%.

The main diseases of this crop include ascochitosis, powdery mildew, peronosporosis, rust and gray rot. The main role in the system of disease control measures is given to agricultural practices:

  • creating a good agrotechnical background;
  • timely and high-quality tillage;
  • liming acidic soils;
  • the introduction of phosphorus-potassium fertilizers;
  • crop rotation;
  • weed control;
  • selection of varieties;
  • sowing mixtures;
  • harvesting at the optimum time;
  • cleaning and drying seeds.

In the fight against diseases, seed dressing is effective, which is carried out in the same way as for leguminous crops.

The main pests of the hairy vetch include nodule weevil, phytonomus, striped and bristly weevil, bean weevil, meadow moth caterpillars, gamma scoops, and vetch aphids. Control measures include agricultural and sometimes chemical methods.


Hairy vetch can be used for fodder purposes from the beginning of flowering to the formation of green beans. Harvesting is completed before the heading of the cereal component. In the green conveyor, the mixture of vetch with rye is first removed, then with triticale, and finally with wheat.

If hairy vetch predominates in the herbage, then it is better to start harvesting for food during its flowering, ending at the beginning of fruit formation. If the proportion of vetch in the herbage is less than 40%, it is better to start harvesting taking into account the development of cereal components, since the onset of the heading phase sharply reduces the feed mass eaten by animals.

The vetch-rye mixture sown before winter is usually harvested for green fodder in the Non-Chernozem zone at the end of May, in Ukraine – at the beginning of May.

When harvesting for hay, dried mass is recommended to be dried by active ventilation, since ordinary field drying is associated with large losses from the shedding of hairy vetch leaves.

Growing for seeds

Hairy vetch is sown on seeds in its pure form or in a mixture with a winter grain crop.

For rapid propagation of seeds, wide-row crops are used with row spacing of 30-45 cm. The seeding rate is 20-30 kg/ha. Good yields are obtained at a seeding rate of 2 million pieces/ha of germinating seeds of vetch and wheat.

Rye inhibits vetch more strongly and outstrips it in development, so it is less preferable in seed plots.

The yield of seeds increases with the introduction of phosphorus-potassium fertilizers. For example, when applying phosphorus-potassium fertilizers, the yield of vetch seeds increased from 660 to 820 kg/ha on average over 5 years.

Before sowing, the seeds are treated with bacterial preparations (pea rhizotorphin).

Seed plots are often harvested in a separate way. Harvesting begins when 50-60% of the beans in the lower racemes are ripe, as the maturation of the hairy vetch is extended, and overripe beans easily crack. To prevent large losses, the threshing of the rolls is carried out after 1-2 days.

According to other recommendations, hairy vetch seeds are harvested during the ripening period of rye or winter wheat. By this time, as a rule, the proportion of mature wiki beans is 75-80%.

Direct combining can also be used with uniform bean ripening.

Seeds can be obtained from the second cut. Sometimes this is done to prevent the mass spread of pests. In this case, on developed crops, at the beginning of the budding phase, the first cut is made, collecting 6-8 t/ha of green mass. Under favorable weather conditions, the plants grow well, bloom and have time to give a full crop of seeds.

Seeds obtained from mixed crops with winter grains are easily separated on hills and triremes. If necessary, the seeds are dried and stored for storage.


Crop production / P.P. Vavilov, V.V. Gritsenko, V.S. Kuznetsov and others; Ed. P.P. Vavilov. – 5th ed., revised. and additional – M.: Agropromizdat, 1986. – 512 p.: ill. – (Textbook and textbooks for higher educational institutions).

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

Fundamentals of agricultural production technology. Agriculture and crop production. Ed. V.S. Niklyaev. – M .: “Epic”, 2000. – 555 p.