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Tropical Forage Legumes: Harnessing the Potential of Desmanthus and other Genera for Heavy Clay Soils

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The development of legume use in agricultural production in the tropics lags far behind the temperate areas and extensive research over recent decades has aimed to rectify the lack of available leguminous fodder species available for heavy clay soils. This book draws together that research and explores the importance of heavy clay soils to agricultural productivity in the tropics and subtropics and the identification of adapted, productive forage legumes for these environments. Providing an invaluable example of how a global search for adapted and productive forage germplasm has been - and can be - undertaken, and allowing access to a significant body of knowledge that was acquired before the digitalization of reports, this book will be a key resource for new scientists and experienced researchers in the areas of agriculture and forage agronomy.

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1: Providing Pasture and Ley Legumes for Use on Clay Soils in Tropical and Subtropical Environments

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1 Providing Pasture and Ley Legumes for

Use on Clay Soils in Tropical and

Subtropical Environments

R.L Burt†, J.R. Lazier*1 and N. Ahmad†

*Formerly International Livestock Centre for Africa

Almost 50 years ago, the FAO published a very informative review on the dark clay soils of the tropics and subtropics (Dudal and Bramao, 1965).

It showed that the tropical and subtropical worlds contain very large areas of alkaline and clay soils; 83 million ha, one-third of the clay soils in sub-Saharan Africa, are vertisols; the

­Republic of the Sudan has 40 million ha of ‘dark clay soils’, India has 60 million ha and Australia

70 million ha. The soils are generally characterized by higher montmorillonitic clay content and are often situated under wetter conditions.

They occupy very large areas and are of major importance for cropping and pastures because of generally higher fertility and their ability to

‘hold water’ and thus extend the growing season.

 

2: The Collection and Initial Evaluation of a Wide Range of Pasture Legumes From Mexico, Belize and Guatemala: Implications for Genetic Resource Development for Tropical Countries

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2 The Collection and Initial Evaluation of

a Wide Range of Pasture Legumes From

Mexico, Belize and Guatemala: Implications for Genetic Resource Development for

Tropical Countries

J.R. Lazier*1 and R.L. Burt†

*Formerly International Livestock Centre for Africa

Abstract

There is a dearth of pasture and ley legume cultivars for use on alkaline and clay soils in tropical areas.

­Recognizing this, the collaborative Australia–UWI Forage Research Programme, with field studies in Belize and Antigua, took advantage of the proximity of these soils, the rich floras with high endemism and researchers’ sustained residency in the area, and assembled a genetic resource collection of potentially useful legumes. This chapter provides details of an initial assessment for local needs of part of this collection undertaken in Belize.

The evaluation of the accessions began at the point of collection, with the acquisition of information on the climates and soils. It was continued with a simple field experiment designed to provide specimens for identification, for the taxonomic status of many was uncertain, and to broadly categorize a selection of the accessions in terms of perenniality, persistence and vigour of growth in the wet and dry seasons under

 

3: Developing and Utilizing Genetic Resource Collections: An Example From the Tropical Leguminous Genus Stylosanthes

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3 

Developing and Utilizing Genetic

Resource Collections: An Example

From the Tropical Leguminous

Genus Stylosanthes

R.L. Burt†

Abstract

A experiment was undertaken to explore the patterns of phenotypic variation within the Australian collection of

S. hamata and accessions of the related species S. calcicola, S. humilis, S. scabra, S. subsericea and S. sympodialis.

Hierarchical and minimum spanning tree classifications were compared, with the latter found more useful. The results provide a synoptic overview of the collection and thus a convenient framework that can include relevant information from other disciplines and sources and can be used to aid the efficient use of genetic resources. Examples are provided showing how the approach assists in choosing a range of representative material for testing from a large collection. Included is a general discussion on the collection, evaluation and utilization of genetic resource collections, primarily within Stylosanthes, but also drawing comparisons with relevant work with other tropical leguminous genera.

 

4: Desmanthus, a Tropical and Subtropical Forage Legume: Developing Germplasm Resources for More Subtropical and High Altitude Environments

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4 

Desmanthus, a Tropical and Subtropical

Forage Legume: Developing Germplasm

Resources for More Subtropical and High

Altitude Environments

R.L. Burt† and J.R. Lazier*1

*Formerly International Livestock Centre for Africa

Abstract

The 24 species of the genus Desmanthus are widely distributed because they occur in environments ranging from tropical to temperate. Little collected or studied before the Belize-UWI research project, accessions of a number of species from the Yucatan and Belize showed considerable promise as forage plants. A review of Desmanthus species is presented that highlights their potential for and current success in a range of environments, particularly tropical and subtropical heavy clay soils. Further collection and research is recommended for a number of species with forage characteristics.

4.1  Introduction

Particular interest was stimulated in examining the potential of the genus Desmanthus because of the collections made by the IDRC/UWI forage programme in the Yucatan and Belize in the

 

5: A Numerical Analysis of Variation Patterns in the Genus Desmanthus: An Exploratory Study

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5 

A Numerical Analysis of Variation

Patterns in the Genus Desmanthus:

An Exploratory Study

R.L. Burt† and J.R. Lazier*1

*Formerly International Livestock Centre for Africa

Abstract

Desmanthus is the genus with most potential for having productive, persistent genotypes for development as forages for clay soils. An exploratory pattern analysis of the morphological and agronomic characteristics of

35 accessions in a collection of Desmanthus species from a wide range of latitudes was undertaken. The resulting groupings seemed to correspond to species or groups within species. The results were discussed with relation to variation within and between species, geography and the environments in which the collections were made. Recommendations are made as to the species of potential requiring further collection and development

(e.g. D. leptophyllus, D. tatuhyensis, D. virgatus among others), and the approach to be used.

5.1  Introduction

 

6: Searching for Pasture Legumes for Heavy Clay Soils in the Australian Dry Tropics and Subtropics: I. Initial Literature Reviews, Data Analysis and Choice of Material for Test

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6 

Searching for Pasture Legumes for

Heavy Clay Soils in the Australian Dry

Tropics and Subtropics: I. Initial Literature

Reviews, Data Analysis and Choice of Material for Test

R.L. Burt† and J.R. Lazier*1

*Formerly International Livestock Centre for Africa

Abstract

As a preliminary step in the selection of germplasm for heavy clay soils in the Australian tropics and subtropics a review was undertaken of known genera and species of leguminous plants with known and suspected potential.

Groupings were made of the genera based on the percentage of species occurring on clay soils. Assessments were then undertaken of their interest based on the environments in which they occur and their general forage characteristics. The report concludes with brief comments about the adequacy of genetic resource collections of the genera and species that have proven to be of value.

6.1  Introduction

Almost all Australian pasture legume cultivars are plants that have been introduced from elsewhere, and all crop varieties are ‘aliens’, with the sole exception of the Macadamia nut, which is native to Queensland but was developed for commercial use in the USA. This is not altogether surprising because Australian flora is unique since it has been long isolated from those regions in which the seed-bearing plants developed, and thus has relied on the evolution of endemic plants to cope with the ever-changing climate and decreasing levels of soil fertility. The dry areas of Australia illustrate the adaptations that have been necessary (White, 1994). There the soils are poor and sclerophyll–xerophyte grasslands

 

7: Searching for Pasture Legumes for Heavy Clay Soils in the Australian Dry Tropics and Subtropics: II. Ancillary Floristic, Climatic and Edaphic Studies

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7 

Searching for Pasture Legumes for

Heavy Clay Soils in the Australian Dry

Tropics and Subtropics: II. Ancillary

Floristic, Climatic and Edaphic Studies

R.L. Burt† and N. Ahmad†

Abstract

In order to link likely sources of potentially valuable forage germplasm and sites of utilization, 76 locations with clay soils in the dry tropics were subjected to a grouping programme based on their climates, altitudes and latitudes and inferences were made as to the value of this approach to selection of germplasm of potential value. In addition, an analysis was made of characteristics of heavy clay soils of relevant locations internationally, supported by analysis of the role of Antiguan soil characteristics on the presence of three native fodder species. A further analysis was undertaken on the distribution of relevant tropical and subtropical flora globally. The relative importance of areas identified as sources of useful germplasm for Australian target environments is discussed.

 

8: Searching for Pasture Legumes for Heavy Clay Soils in the Australian Dry Tropics and Subtropics: III. The Initial Evaluation of Introduced Material

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8 

Searching for Pasture Legumes for

Heavy Clay Soils in the Australian Dry

Tropics and Subtropics: III. The Initial

Evaluation of Introduced Material

R.L. Burt†

Abstract

A simple initial evaluation trial of germplasm potentially adapted to heavy clay soils was undertaken by the establishment of spaced plants of 90 accessions (12 genera involving 20 species) at three locations. The sites formed a rainfall gradient and the environments ranged from tropical moist monsoon with rainfall exceeding evapotranspiration to hot semi-tropical where the rainfall never exceeds evapotranspiration. The survival and response to environmental stresses of the plants were recorded. The best results were achieved by accessions of

Stylosanthes, especially S. hamata, and Desmanthus. Discussions follow on the general topic of pasture legumes for clay soils in the dry tropics and on the value of provenance records in suggesting plant utility.

8.1  Introduction

 

9: Searching for Pasture Legumes for Heavy Clay Soils in the Australian Dry Tropics and Subtropics: IV. Evaluation in Western Queensland

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9 

Searching for Pasture Legumes for

Heavy Clay Soils in the Australian Dry

Tropics and Subtropics: IV. Evaluation in

Western Queensland

R.L. Burt†

Abstract

Sixty-one accessions of 19 species belonging to nine genera potentially adapted to heavy clay soils in drier conditions were tested at six western Queensland sites in a range of climatic conditions in 13 experiments involving three trial designs: single strips (2), small swards (8) and transplants with initial irrigation (3). Growth, response to stresses and persistence of the plantings were recorded. Only Desmanthus species persisted at the sites, some surviving for many years. The characteristics of the Desmanthus species of interest and the importance of further collection of the variation in these species in order to enable their potential to be assessed and utilized are discussed, and suggestions of how this might be efficiently achieved are presented.

9.1  Introduction

There are very large areas of clay soils throughout the tropics and subtropics of the world, much of them being located in dry tropical to semi-arid and arid regions (Dudal and Bramao,

 

10: Recent Development and Commercial Adoption of Legumes for Heavy Clay Soils in Queensland

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10 

Recent Development and

Commercial Adoption of Legumes for Heavy Clay Soils in Queensland

K.G. Cox1

Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, Mareeba, Australia

Abstract

In previous chapters of this volume, various authors describe the development of herbaceous legumes for pastures on clay soils in Queensland until about the 1980s. Emphasis is on the collection and evaluation of the genus

Desmanthus, given its relatively recent addition to agriculture and considerable potential for providing useful pasture legumes for clay soils, particularly in the seasonally dry areas of northern Australia. Other genera are also discussed, including early assessments of herbaceous legumes that were later developed for clay soils (Clitoria,

Macroptilium and Stylosanthes). This chapter provides a summary of the development of herbaceous legumes for clay soils in Queensland from these earlier assessments until present.

Beef cattle farming is the principal agricultural enterprise in seasonally dry areas of northern Australia, including large areas of clay soils in Queensland. Sown and naturally occurring grasses provide the key feed resource, and the inclusion of sown legumes can significantly improve live-weight gain and reproductive performance per unit area. Queensland has been the centre of development for legumes for clay soils in tropical and subtropical areas of Australia, mostly through assessing and developing plants held in the Australian

 

11: Developing and Commercializing New Pasture Legumes for Clay Soils in the Semi-arid Rangelands of Northern Australia: The New Desmanthus Cultivars JCU 1–5 and the Progardes Story

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11 

Developing and Commercializing

New Pasture Legumes for Clay Soils in the

Semi-arid Rangelands of Northern

Australia: The New Desmanthus Cultivars

JCU 1–5 and the Progardes Story

C.P. Gardiner

Abstract

Vast areas of semi-arid clay soil rangeland regions of northern Australia, such as the Mitchell Grass Downs Bioregion, have (until recently) no commercially available or adapted sown pasture legume. Other regions and land types with clay soils too, such as the Brigalow region, have had a very limited range of sown pasture legume species available. Low livestock productivity in northern Australia is largely due to low protein content and low digestibility of the diet during the dry season. An adapted pasture legume could ameliorate this problem and enhance the productivity and sustainability of the region’s grazing sector. Of all the legume species tested to date in this region, a number of Desmanthus species are the preeminent survivors and are proving to be well adapted.

 

12: The Cattle Industry of Belize: A Brief History of Research and Development to the Mid-1970s

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12 The Cattle Industry of Belize:

A Brief History of Research and

Development to the Mid-1970s

J.R. Lazier*1

*Formerly International Livestock Centre for Africa

Abstract

Belize, one of the sites of the collaborative IDRC/UWI–CSIRO research reported in this volume, is a small Central

American country whose economy is little known compared with that of Australia, thus background information on its livestock industry is presented here to set the scene for the chapters that follow. With a small population and extensive areas of grassland, it has been seen as having potential as a source of protein for the countries of CARICOM. Though cattle had long been used as draught animals in logging, a cattle industry for beef has been considered seriously only since the 1930s. Despite the industry having since been given high priority in

Government-development plans, research has been sporadic, mainly dependent on special programmes funded from abroad and on temporary personnel. Considerable progress was made in developing the industry, but by the mid-1970s there were major problems including lack of infrastructure, uncertain markets and lack of management skills. Some adapted, improved pasture species were identified, but more work was required, particularly on forage legumes. Cattle raising had been encouraged with some success as a step in the development of sedentary farming from shifting agriculture. In 1970 the cattle population was 38,000 head and 92% of the 1322 herds in the country had 50 animals or less.

 

13; Botanical Composition and Nutritive Value of Selected Native Pastures in Belize

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13 

Botanical Composition and Nutritive

Value of Selected Native Pastures in Belize

J.R. Lazier*1

*Formerly International Livestock Centre for Africa

Abstract

An initial assessment was undertaken of the productivity, nutrient value and botanical composition of eight representative native pastures on a range of clay soils, including three vertisols, in central Belize and the Belize River

Valley under wet tropical conditions. Regular harvests indicated that the productivity at all sites was very low, that palatable native legumes were present at low levels and that the native species, particularly Mesosetum angustifolium, the dominant grass at the more infertile sites, did not respond to fertilization either in yield or nutrient content. At all sites some of the nutrients essential for animal productivity were below minimal levels, particularly Cu, but also

P at all but one site. N, Ca, Mg and Zn also were limiting at some sites and harvests. The introduced legumes being tested in the trials at the sites also had lower than minimum levels of Cu but mainly higher than minimum levels of the other nutrients tested.

 

14: Single Plant Trials of Potential Forage Legumes for Belizean Pastures on Clay Soils of the Upper Belize River and the Lowland Pine Ridge

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14 Single Plant Trials of Potential Forage

Legumes for Belizean Pastures on Clay

Soils of the Upper Belize River and the

Lowland Pine Ridge

J.R. Lazier*1

*Formerly International Livestock Centre for Africa

Abstract

Fertilized replicated single plant trials were established on two major soil types in wet tropical conditions in

­central Belize, a heavy cracking clay and a waterlogged kaolinitic clay. Thirty-five accessions (32 species and

20 genera) were harvested by clipping at 6-week intervals. Survival was better on the wetter site, but yields were lower. Macroptilium atropurpureum cv. Siratro, Indigofera hirsute, Pueraria phaseoloides and Desmodium cinerium were the most productive on the cracking clay, while P. phaseoloides, Vigna caracalla, Desmodium ovalifolium, Stylosanthes guianensis and Siratro performed best on the kaolinitic clay. D. cinerium and D. ovalifolium in particular appeared to be worthy of further study for these soils.

 

15: Forage Legume Adaptation Strip Trials in Belize

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15 Forage Legume Adaptation

Strip Trials in Belize

J.R. Lazier*1

*Formerly International Livestock Centre for Africa

Abstract

Twenty-one plantings of 24 accessions of 18 promising forage species belonging to 13 genera were established as strips under two fertilizer levels in 15 native and improved pastures and plots in contrasting environments

(vertisols, planosols and podzols) under wet tropical conditions in central Belize to obtain an initial assessment of their potential under regular cutting and grazing. Observational methods were used to obtain data. At the seven upper Belize River Valley sites, Leucaena leucocephala and Codariocalyx gyroides had the best performance, followed by Calopogonium caeruleum, Centrosema plumieri and C. pubescens. At the four Low Pine Ridge sites the plants most consistently successful across the sites and fertilizer levels were the S. guianensis accessions and C. gyroides. However, C. caeruleum, C. pubescens and D. intortum, under the high fertilizer rate generally persisted and performed very well. On the Mountain Pine Ridge soils, performance at the three sites was poor without the application of marl. The most productive legumes were C. gyroides, D. intortum, P. phaseoloides and S. guianensis cv. Endeavour.

 

16: Initial Screening for Persistence and Productivity of 20 Promising Native and Exotic Pasture Legume Species in Two Productive Contrasting Forage Grasses in Belize

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16 Initial Screening for Persistence

and Productivity of 20 Promising Native and Exotic Pasture Legume Species in Two Productive Contrasting Forage

Grasses in Belize

J.R. Lazier*1

*Formerly International Livestock Centre for Africa

Abstract

In order to assess persistence and productivity of promising fodder legumes under the wet tropical conditions of central Belize on a black heavy clay soil, strips of 20 mainly locally collected accessions of fodder legumes (13 genera,

15 species) of potential were planted in three replicates on an upper terrace of the Belize River in established pastures of two grasses (Pangola grass, Digitaria eriantha and Para grass, Brachiaria mutica) under low and high levels of applied fertilizer. Observational data were acquired at 6-week intervals. Once the legumes were well established the plots were mob grazed at 6-week intervals and observations were taken immediately before and after. Legume establishment and persistence was best in Para grass, and Leucaena leucocephala cv. Peru and Stylosanthes guianensis were the most promising materials tested. Common Centro and three locally collected accessions (C. pubescens

 

17: Productivity of 16 Forage Legumes Under Cutting in Belize on Contrasting Soils: a High Alluvial Terrace and A Lowland Pine Savanna I. Dry Matter Yields

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17 

Productivity of 16 Forage Legumes

Under Cutting in Belize on Contrasting

Soils: a High Alluvial Terrace and A

Lowland Pine Savanna I. Dry Matter Yields

J.R. Lazier*1

*Formerly International Livestock Centre for Africa

Abstract

In order to determine the relative productivity of 16 promising forage legumes (12 species, 8 genera) in two major environments of central Belize (a neutral heavy cracking clay on an upper river terrace, and an acid waterlogged sandy loam on the Low Pine Ridge coastal deposits), trials with three replicates were established and 12 harvests for dry matter were made at 6-week intervals. The high terrace site was a long-­established pasture of Coastal Bermuda grass (Cynodon dactylon). The grass and weeds proved to be aggressive and dominated the legumes tested, such that many low and viney legumes died out. Codariocalyx gyroides, Crotalaria anagyroides and Leucaena leucocephala, which grew above the grass, had the best total yields. The Bermuda grass production was very poor in the cool and dry seasons. At the waterlogged savanna site there was little competition from the native grass Mesosetum angustifolium, but very little legume growth until fertilizer was applied. Thereafter, C. anagyroides and C. gyroides were very vigorous, yielding well through the dry season and producing substantially more in the last 9 months of the trial than the high river terrace site. The wet soil conditions permitted best legume growth in the dry season. The legumes generally were more productive than at the heavy clay site. M. angustifolium yields were very low throughout the trial, and particularly in the cool season.

 

18: Productivity of 16 Forage Legumes in Mixed Swards Under Cutting in Belize on Contrasting Soils: a High Alluvial Terrace and A Lowland Pine Savanna II. Nutrient Levels and Feeding Value

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18 

Productivity of 16 Forage Legumes in

Mixed Swards Under Cutting in Belize on

Contrasting Soils: a High Alluvial Terrace and A Lowland Pine Savanna II. Nutrient

Levels and Feeding Value

J.R. Lazier*1

*Formerly International Livestock Centre for Africa

Abstract

In Belize samples from the more productive treatments from two harvests of mixed swards of legumes and grasses in two trials were analysed for contents of N, P, K, Ca, Mg, Mn, Cu, Zn and S. The results were related to estimated minimal nutrient levels for maintenance and production of cattle. The trial sites were on a high river terrace on a heavy black clay soil where the grass component was Cynodon dactylon cv. Coastal and three legume treatments were analysed, and on a lowland pine savanna, a waterlogged Ultisol, where the grass was the native savanna grass Mesosetum angustifolium and six legume treatments were analysed. Cu was below minimal maintenance levels at both sites and in all fractions analysed. The mature savanna grass had below maintenance levels of N, P,

 

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