Desmodium is a vine like legume which can attain 2-4 feet in height. Its leaves look like a clover meaning they are trifoliate. Once established it has very good soil cover and is not affected much by weeds. It is good as a source of protein for animals and is also good as a cover crop in farming. It also is good for improving soil fertility as it fixes nitrogen from the air into the soil.


As a fodder crop, desmodium is easy to establish and maintain. Planting from seed requires a fertile well drained soil, with a fine tilth. This can be achieved easily during the onset of the rainy season or, if water is available, irrigation is also an option. Desmodium can also be propagated from cuttings, 3-5 inches is stem with a few small leaves, can be planted directly in well prepared wet soil. It has a crude protein value of about 12-20%. despite being less than lucerne, given that it produces more biomass per acre, I prefer it over lucerne.


My experience with desmodium has been good so far. Establishing from cuttings has been the preferred method as it is faster than from seed. It is tolerant to fungal disease as opposed to lucerne, which is not. However, desmodium is not very tolerant to drought like lucerne is. It can also be harvested about 3 times a year. The difference here being that desmodium has more biomass when compared to lucerne. Desmodium can also the easily inter cropped with other fodder crops like nappier grass, maize and sorghum. Once harvested ,it can made into mixed silage quite easily.

On the farm too, I noticed that the wildlife damage is not as bad as compared to lucerne. For this reason too, I prefer to grow it is a protein source for the dairy cows.


Is it worth it?


If you live is a place with above average rainfall, or in the cooler agricultural regions, I would definitely ask you consider growing desmodium either as a cover crop, for soil fertility improvement or as a fodder crop for ruminant animals.

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