Legume plants are known for their ability to fix atmospheric nitrogen. This is done thanks to a symbiotic relationship with rhizobial bacteria found in root nodules of these plants. Legume seed and foliage have a comparatively higher protein content than non-legumes, which makes them a desirable crop in all forms of agriculture. Click (V) for varieties.
Alfalfa - Alfalfa is a perennial legume used for hay and grazing. Establishment requires a firm seedbed, high levels of P & K, and a pH of 6.0 to 6.5. Alfalfa stands cannot be thickened with interseeding. Alfalfas are rated on the Wisconsin Disease Index (WDI), X out of 30, and by Fall Dormancy (FD), the higher the number the longer the growing season. (V)
Red Clovers - Red clovers are easy to establish legumes that are quick growing, and produce high quality forage. Red clovers are primarily used for pasture, hay, silage, and for soil improvement. Establishment practices range from overseeding to sowing in a prepared seed bed. pH requirements are lower than alfalfas. Red clover is available in one, two, and multi-year varieties. (V)
White Clovers - Perennial legume that we consider to be the most useful pasture legume, but due to high moisture content , a poor choice for dry hay production. White clovers are extremely palatable with high protein levels. Due to the possibility of bloat, they are most commonly planted with a grass. White clover has a prostrate, stoloniferous growth habit. Commonly interseeded into existing pastures. (V)
Other Clovers - From cover crops to bee attractant, there are clovers not grouped into the “Red” or “White” families that work great in certain situations and in certain management practices. (V)
Trefoil - Trefoil is a perennial legume used for hay, pasture, and green chop. It is considered a non-bloating legume when used in grazing situations. A great legume choice to use on poor quality soils. Plant stays green and succulent during and after seed ripening. (V)
Lespedeza - Lespedeza is a warm season legume which is suitable from the IA-MO border south. Although lespedeza is an annual, if given the opportunity, it will perpetuate itself through seed production. Seed production takes place during Sep-Oct, then drops to the ground where freezing during the winter breaks the seed hull allowing the seed to germinate in spring. Lespedeza will perform better on lower pH soils than alfalfa or clover. Excellent forage for feeder calves or lambs.