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Height and Mineral Composition of 12 Improved Tropical Forage Legume Species in the Southern Guinea Savanna of Nigeria

Ikani Josiah Obaka Okwori Abel Ibrahim Ojo Gabriel Ogala Samuel
Vol 8(12), 302-306

The study was conducted to evaluate the adaptability and performance of 12 improved forage legume species. The results showed significant (P<0.05) differences among the legume species for plant height. At 4 weeks after sowing (WAS), plant height ranged from 7.76 cm for Desmodium intortum to 43.10 cm for Mucuna pruriens (black seeded) in the field and results in the pot experiment were similar. Plant height at 16 WAS ranged from 104.95 cm to 398.56 cm for Gliricidia sepium and Lablab purpureus, respectively. Calcium content ranged from 0.77% in Cajanus cajan to 1.16% in Gliricidia sepium and Centrosema pascuorum. Phosphorus content ranged from 0.33% to 2.27% in Centrosema pascuorum and Aeschynomene americanum, respectively while potassium ranged from -0.32% to 0.27% for Gliricidia sepium and Cajanus cajan, respectively. It is recommended that Cajanus cajan, Lablab purpureus, Centrosema pascuorum, Centrosema pubescens and Mucuna pruriens (White and black seeded) be adopted by livestock farmers and pasture agronomists to establish ranches and produce seeds.

Keywords : Forage Height Legumes Minerals

Forage and fodder crops are central to the development of Nigeria’s livestock industry. This feed resource, which consists mainly of grasses, legumes, browses, and cereal crop residues vary widely and are spread across the major agro-ecological zones of the country (Shiawoya and Tsado, 2011). Improved pastures produce more dry matter of high nutritive value and lead to greater animal productivity than do native pastures (Nuru, 1996). The need for improved legume forage species into the southern guinea savanna ecology cannot be overemphasized since the poor quality natural grassland largely contributes to the poor animal performance. Given the prevailing economic conditions with high cost of other feed sources which are generally too high to be recommended for widespread use, Nigeria will have to rely heavily on intensive use of pastures to improve the nutritional status of livestock.  Abayomi et al. (2001) have evaluated legume cover crops but this study has a wider scope of forage legume species for performance evaluation. This study was therefore designed with the aim of introducing and determining the growth performance and mineral composition of 12 tropical forage legume species for establishment.

Materials and Methods

The study was conducted from May to November, in 2015 to 2016 cropping seasons at the pasture field of the Livestock Teaching and Research Farm, College of Animal Science of the University of Agriculture, Makurdi, Nigeria. Makurdi is located on latitude 07o 41’ N, longitude 08o 37’E and altitude 106.4 m (NIMET, 2016). Seeds of twelve (12) forage legume species: (Cajanus cajan (L) Millsp, Stylosanthes hamata (Verano), Gliricidia sepium (Gliricidia), Centrosema pubescens (Centro), Mucuna pruriens-white seeded, Alysicarpus vaginalis, Leucaena leucocephala, Desmodium intortum, Lablab purpureus (Rongai), Mucuna pruriens-black seeded, Aeschynomene americanum and Centrosema pascuorum (Centro) were obtained from feeds and Nutrition Research Programme of National Animal Production Research Institute (NAPRI), Shika, Zaria were used for the study.

The experimental land was well prepared to allow for good seed-to-soil contact which is essential to maintain adequate moisture near the seeds necessary for germination. Out of the twelve (12) forage legume seeds only Mucuna pruriens and Lablab purpureus were not scarified, seeds were harvested from the mature fruits which are usually viable for more than two years. Others were scarified using methods appropriate for each species to break seed dormancy before sowing. The twelve (12) line plots were arranged in a Randomized Complete Block Design (RCBD) with three (3) replicates for the field experiment, while a Completely Randomized Design (CRD) was adopted for the pot experiment and replicated three (3) times. Data generated were subjected to Analysis of Variance (ANOVA) using the Minitab Statistical Software (MSS) (Version 16) (2016) for both field and pot experiments. Means that showed significant differences were subjected to Means Separation using the Fisher’s Least Significant Difference (LSD) of the MSS at the 5 % level of probability (P≤ 0.05).  The total plot size was 36m2 with each Unit plot having a size of 0.75m2. The seeds were sown at 0.5cm – 2.5cm depending on the sowing depth specification for each legume species.

Results and Discussion

Increased plant height provides more green area for increased photosynthetic activities and assimilates needed for grain filling (Haseeb-ur-Rehman et al., 2010). The results of the present study have shown that some of the evaluated species have the potential for rapid soil surface coverage. Following crop establishment, Lablab purpureus, Mucuna pruriens (black seeded), Mucuna pruriens (white seeded), Centrosema pubescens and Centrosema pascuorum grew faster which is attributed to their aggressive growth habit unlike other forages studied. These results agree well with the reports of Carsky (1993) in Cameroun and Marilla et al. (1992) in Brazil where ground cover was good with Centrosema pascuorum but were relatively slower in Aeschynomene spp.

Table 1: Mean squares for plant height (cm) at week 4, 8, 12, and 16 after sowing (field experiment)

Source of Variation DF (HT-WK 4) (HT-WK 8) (HT-WK 12) (HT-WK 16)
Replication 2 0.082 0.42 0.3 2815.9
Treatment 11 375.809* 3119.62* 14844.4* 35800.6*
Error 22 0.313 1.14 0.3 2665.6

DF: Degree of Freedom; HT: Height; WK: Week

Table 2: Mean squares for plant height (cm) at week 4, 8, 12, and 16 after sowing (pot experiment)

Source of Variation DF (HT-WK 4) (HT-WK 8) (HT-WK 12) (HT-WK 16)
Treatment 12 379.127* 3119.49* 14797.5* 39448*
Error 24 0.526 1.09 3.2 178

DF: Degree of Freedom; HT: Height; WK: Week

Table 3: Mean values of height of forage legume species at 4, 8, 12 and 16 weeks after sowing

Species 4 Weeks 8 Weeks 12 Weeks 16 Weeks
Field Pot Field Pot Field Pot Field Pot
Cajanus cajan 29.73d 33.23d 96.41d 107.22d 177.77e 182.69e 251.92c 260.42c
Stylosanthes hamata 18.68e 22.35e 47.65g 58.23g 82.10gh 92.90gh 116.01de 126.21de
Gliricidia sepium 14.82f 18.52f 47.66g 57.26g 79.96hi 88.90hi 104.95e 114.15e
Centrosema pubescens 11.88h 16.18h 100.29c 112.28c 243.69a 253.29a 336.41b 347.01b
Mucuna pruriens (white) 33.87b 39.57b 100.38c 111.48c 197.78c 205.78c 332.81b 345.01b
Alysicarpus vaginalis 11.68h 15.28h 44.51h 54.65h 84.98g 95.68g 135.86d 143.80d
Leucaena leucocephala 14.32f 19.84g 54.09f 65.16f 97.87f 108.07f 134.83d 144.02d
Desmodium intortum 7.76i 11.36i 35.57i 46.54i 78.11i 89.19i 113.41de 124.19de
Lablab purpureus 32.57c 38.17c 131.02a 139.92a 245.22a 255.52a 398.56a 409.41a
Mucuna pruriens (black) 43.10a 48.19a 106.84b 115.54b 211.97b 223.07b 381.00a 391.06a
Aeschynomene americanum 12.25gh 16.09gh 44.42h 54.92h 70.98j 81.58j 119.52de 129.41de
Centrosema pascuorum 18.95e 22.31e 88.87e 97.27e 193.86d 201.96d 235.03c 244.13c
SEM 0.554 0.725 1.066 1.04 0.545 1.8 51.63 13.35

a, b, c = Means on the same column with different superscripts are significantly (P<0.05) different; SEM: Standard Error of Mean

Calcium and phosphorus concentrations in the legumes were higher than the suggested critical levels of 0.30% Ca and 0.25% P, necessary to meet ruminant requirements in the tropics (McDowell and Arthington, 2005). The levels of P in this study contrast to the sub-optimal levels of P commonly reported in grasses, legumes and browses of the savannas of Nigeria (Kallah, et al., 1999). The ranges of phosphorus in the forage legumes were 0.31% to 2.27%. These values were higher compared to the NRC recommendation of 0.15% for phosphorus (NRC, 1985). The -0.32% to 0.27% ranges of potassium values in the legumes, were lower than the NRC 0.80% recommendation for potassium (NRC, 1985).

Table 4: Mineral composition (%) at maturity

Species Ca Mg P Na K
Cajanus cajan 0.77d 0.075ab 1.41c 0.32fg 0.27a
Stylosanthes hamata 0.79d 0.067bc 1.85b 0.45b -0.25e
Gliricidia sepium 1.16a 0.054e 0.80e 0.29g -0.32e
Centrosema pubescens 0.96bc -0.004f 0.33g 0.37cde 0.082c
Mucuna pruriens (white) 0.89c 0.070abc 0.63f 0.35def 0.27a
Alysicarpus vaginalis 1.12a 0.065bcd 0.90e 0.39cd -0.16d
Leucaena leucocephala 0.92c 0.057de 0.84e 0.23h 0.18b
Desmodium intortum 1.01b 0.077a 1.10d 0.33ef -0.31e
Lablab purpureus 1.02b 0.063cde 1.76b 0.54a -0.32e
Mucuna pruriens (black) 0.95bc 0.072abc 0.51f 0.31fg 0.21ab
Aeschynomene americanum 0.96bc 0.068abc 2.27a 0.35def -0.31e
Centrosema pascuorum 1.16a 0.077a 0.31g 0.39c -0.32e
SEM 0.015 0.001 0.01 0.01 0.01

a, b, c = Means on the same column with different superscripts are significantly (P<0.05) different; SEM: Standard Error of Mean, Ca: calcium, Mg: magnesium, P: phosphorus, Na: sodium, K: potassium

Most forage legume species appeared quite suitable for animal nutrition in terms of contents of Ca, P, Mg, and Na, although rather low in K for production. They appear deficient in potassium compared to animal requirements from the feeding standards of McDowell (1997) but can be supplemented using potassium chloride based salt lick. Grasses deficient in magnesium which animals suffer (grass staggers or tetany) as a result can be supplemented with legumes high in magnesium.

Conclusion and Recommendation

The results obtained in this study revealed that most of the forage legumes species have the potential to supply adequate nutrients for ruminant production. The foliage of the plants contained moderate to high in crude protein at maturity. It is recommended that Cajanus cajan, Lablab purpureus, Centrosema pascuorum, Centrosema pubescens and Mucuna pruriens (White and black seeded) be adopted by livestock farmers and pasture agronomists in this location to establish ranches, fodder banks and produce seeds based on their ability to adapt, establish well and to exceedingly meet nutrient requirements for ruminants.


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