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Ornithopus sativus

Ornithopus sativus, or bird’s-foot, (also Seradella) is a forage crop related to annual legumes.

Ornithopus sativus
Ornithopus sativus
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Economic importance

Ornithopus sativus is often called the clover of sandy soils, since, with sufficient moisture, it can produce high yields of green mass and hay on light sandy and sandy loamy soils.

In crop rotations, it serves as an excellent predecessor for cereals and potatoes. Due to the ability to fix nitrogen, it accumulates nitrogen in the soil.

The protein content averages 15.2% of dry weight.

Holds up well to grazing. It grows back quickly after grazing and mowing.

Honey plant.

On poor soils it serves as a good green manure.

Cultivation areas

It is cultivated in the western regions of Russia, the southern and central regions of the Non-Chernozem zone, the Bryansk, Smolensk, Oryol regions, as well as in Belarus and Polissya of Ukraine.

Botanical description

Seradella (Ornitopus sativus Broth.).

The root system is powerful, with well-developed lateral roots. At the beginning of the growing season, the roots deepen to 7.5 cm per day. Penetrate into the soil to a depth of 125 cm. It has a high absorption capacity.

On one plant, 5-16 creeping stems are formed. The stems are thin, soft, branching, 50-70 cm high, do not coarsen until autumn. Coverage is high.

The leaves are imparipinnate, have 6-10 pairs of lanceolate leaflets.

Inflorescence – brush. The flowers are small, pale pink, pink, collected in a brush.

The fruit is a jointed bean, up to 3 cm long. The beans of one inflorescence resemble a bird’s paw, so sometimes Ornithopus sativus is also called a birdleg. The bean has 5-6 small angular, flattened seeds, light brown or greenish in color. The beans break up into segments that are used as seeds.

Biological features

Heat requirements

It is undemanding to heat.

Ornithopus sativus seeds begin to germinate at a temperature of 1-2 °C. Seedlings and adult plants withstand frosts down to -8…-9 °С.

Moisture requirements

Moist culture. Grows well at high relative humidity.

Light requirements

Young plants easily tolerate shading.

Soil requirements

Grows well on light-textured sandy and sandy loamy soils.


In the first 40-45 days, the development of seradella is slow. From the moment of flowering, intensive growth of the stems begins. Flowering in wet weather can continue until late autumn.

Begins to regrow quickly after harvesting the cover crop.

Beans and seeds ripen unevenly 105-110 days after sowing. Often, the bottom beans are ripening while the top of the stem is just beginning to bloom.


Ornithopus sativus is cultivated as a fallow crop, or sown under winter or spring crops.


Responsive to the introduction of phosphorus-potassium fertilizers, as well as boron microfertilizers.

On sandy soils, the introduction of potash fertilizers increases the yield of hay by 24-34%, together with phosphorus – by 53%.


Usually sown in the spring under the cover of winter or spring crops or stubble.

The seeding rate when grown for hay or green fodder is 40-60 kg/ha.

Sowing dates, especially for obtaining seeds, are the earliest.

The sowing method for fodder use is ordinary.

Planting depth 2-3 cm.

Before sowing, treatment with bacterial preparations is recommended.


Harvesting for hay is started in the full flowering phase, when green beans are formed on the lower tiers of plants.

Growing for seeds

The seeding rate when grown for seeds is 10-15 kg/ha (according to other recommendations, 20-30 kg/ha). The method of sowing is wide-row with row spacing of 25-30 cm. On fields clear of weeds, it can be sown in the usual row way.

The harvesting of the testicles is started when the lower beans are browned. By this time, the beans of the middle tiers have time to pour well and do not shine through in the light. Mowing is carried out with a mowing machine in the morning or evening hours to reduce seed losses. Delay in harvesting results in shedding of seeds with the best qualities. A delay of 10 days leads to a decrease in yield by 27-30%. The threshing of the mass dried in rolls is carried out by a combine.


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).

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