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Perennial legume grasses

Perennial legume grasses are perennial grasses in the Legume family.


According to the duration of use, perennial legumes are divided into:

  • biennial;
  • short-lived, the period of use of which is 2-3 years;
  • average longevity;
  • perennial.

By type of development:

  • winter crops;
  • semi-winter;
  • spring.

In terms of speed:

  • super early;
  • early;
  • medium;
  • later.

Also, perennial legumes can be subdivided according to the composition and form of shoots, the nature of foliage, the height and arrangement of leaves into upland, semi-upper and grassroots. Top perennial legumes are tall plants with generative and elongated vegetative shoots, evenly leafy in height and used mainly for hay.

Grassroots – undersized plants with a small number of generative shoots and a large number of shortened vegetative ones. Used as pasture crops. 

Semi-upland occupy an intermediate position between upland and grassroots, they are distinguished by combined use (hay and pasture).

According to the nature of the shoot formation, they are divided into:

  • rhizomatous, that is, during development, rhizomes depart from the root collar of the main and secondary shoots, from which above-ground shoots are formed;
  • root shoots, when developing from a vertical shortened
    root, horizontal ones are formed with renewal buds,
    from which elevated shoots develop;
  • tap-root (bush), with development from the vertical (usually thickened) main root, branching
    lateral shoots depart; elevated shoots are formed from the buds of the root collar and shoots;
  • creeping, when developing from the root neck, horizontal shoots-stems are formed, located above the soil surface.

Main crops

Main crops:

  • clover;
  • alfalfa;
  • sainfoin;
  • sweet clover;
  • goat’s rue;
  • horned loon.

Promising types of perennial legumes used in agriculture also include:

  • astragalus marsh (Astragalus umbellatus), variety Chernysh;
  • vetch Grossheim’s (Vícia ?), Doris variety;
  • mouse vetch (Vícia cracca), variety Srednevolzhskaya 98;
  • sweet clover (Melilotus ?), variety Ononsky;
  • hops alfalfa (Medicago lupulina), Mira variety;
  • horned broom (Lotus corniculatus), varieties Smolensky 1, Luch, and Solnyshko;
  • woodruff (Lathyrus sylvestris), variety Povolzhskaya 94.


When sowing perennial grasses in early spring without a cover, by autumn they form a small crop of green mass, and the year of life and the year of use coincide. If sowing is carried out in early spring under the cover of any crop or in summer without cover, then the use of herbs is started the next year. The second method of sowing is the most widely used.

Herbs of the first year of use correspond to the second year of life, herbs of the second year of use correspond to the third year of life, and so on.

Legumes in crops of fodder grasses should be the basis of the forage base. They provide animals with fresh grass in summer and canned grass (hay, haylage, silage) in winter.

In terms of nutritional value, 1 kg of dry matter of herbs is not inferior to oat grain . According to the content of protein, essential amino acids and carotene, legumes are superior to other feeds, somewhat inferior to cake.

With sufficient moisture, they quickly grow back after mowing the above-ground mass, giving several cuttings or grazing cycles during the summer. Therefore, their cultivation makes it possible to organize a continuous supply of green fodder during periods when natural hayfields and pastures cannot meet the needs of animal husbandry.

Leguminous grasses have a great effect on the restoration of soil fertility: they contribute to the accumulation of organic matter and nitrogen, improve water-physical properties, and reduce the risk of soil erosion. The root system of leguminous grasses drains the deep layers of the soil, absorbing mineral nutrients from them, which are difficult for other plants, and transfers them to the upper layers. For this reason, they serve as good predecessors for many field crops in a crop rotation. With insufficient use of organic and mineral fertilizers, the role of legumes in maintaining and reproducing fertility increases dramatically.

Perennial leguminous grasses can be grown in field, fodder, soil protection, vegetable and other types of crop rotations, as well as in hatch fields and sloping lands.

Leguminous grasses in modern agriculture can be considered as one of the directions of greening, biologization and improvement of the environment.

Currently, legumes are cultivated in a mixture with cereal species to reserve marginal arable land with the help of permanent grassing, not only for the economic use of land, for example, as hayfields and pastures, but also for the allocation of special areas for wild animals. For these purposes, low-value areas are usually allocated, for example, highly eroded, waterlogged, saline, rocky, sandy, as well as lands located near farms and populated areas for pastures and hayfields for personal subsidiary plots.

Compared to cereal grasses, legumes are of higher quality forage, with a higher content of protein, vitamins and minerals. In the second half of the XX century. in the USSR, pure crops of cereal grasses were widely used, however, due to the increase in the cost of mineral fertilizers, they are rather used as an exception. Legume-grass mixtures predominate in modern field grass-sowing. Their yields are usually equal
or superior to single-species crops; better withstand adverse weather conditions, they are more durable due to the replacement of cereal species of legumes that fall out of the herbage.

The yield of perennial grasses is up to 5 t/ha of hay, under irrigation conditions – up to 10 t/ha.


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.