Legumes

Legumes

Legumes are basically plant species which are associated with bacteria known as rhizobia. Examples include red and white clover, beans, peas, sainfoin and so on.

Legumes are notable in that most of them have nitrogen-fixing bacteria in structures called root nodules. Hence, there is little need for nitrogen fertiliser. This is also why legumes are important as a crop for organic farmers.

Throughout the years, demand of legumes have been declining as it is difficult to grow them. However, in recent times, disease resistant varieties have been developed and interest in legumes is increasing again.

Method of Preservation

The basic principle of ensiling legumes is similar to that of grass silage. However, lugumes have low sugar but they are high in protein, thus, resulting in a high buffering capacity. Due to this, legumes are difficult to ferment. Therefore, they need to be treated slightly different as compared to the other types of forage. Rapid wilting - within 48 hours, assisted by using mower-conditioner with rubber rollers to at least 30% dry matter will help make the crop easier to ferment using additives. Studies showed that dry matter should be over 45% if additives are not used.

Just like grass and maize, legume silage can be clamped or baled.

Advantages:

  • Environmental friendly - fixation of atmospheric nitrogen

  • Reduce usage of artificial fertilisers

  • High in protein content

  • High production per hectare

Disadvantages:

  • Potentially increase nitrogen leaching from soil and excretion by livestock

  • Hard to ensile compared to other crops

  • High input costs

  • Short harvest window