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THE UNIVERSITY

OF ILLINOIS

LIBRARY




CIRC



fSHECK FOR
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University

of

Illinois
Agricultural
Experiment

Station


Bulletin4l6



FOREWORD

THE IMPORTANCE of legumes in a system of permanent fer-
tility was early demonstrated by the Illinois Agricultural Ex-
periment Station and recognized by Illinois farmers. One of
the problems with the better known legumes alfalfa, sweet clover,
and red clover has been to obtain satisfactory growth on soils that
have reached a low level of productivity. Changing economic condi-
tions have intensified this problem by making it difficult for many
farmers to purchase sufficient amounts of soil-building materials to
insure reasonable success with these legumes.

Among many legumes tested at this Station, lespedeza has been
found to have outstanding merit, especially for its ability to grow
under conditions unfavorable to other legumes, thus enabling a farmer
to set in motion the process of soil improvement without making a
large initial outlay for fertilizing materials. The prospect is that
lespedeza will become one of the important legume crops of the state.
The extent to which this will occur will depend upon those interested
gaining a better understanding of its culture and utilization and
upon the development of varieties still better adapted to the wide
range of soil and climatic conditions in the state.

H. W. MUMFORD
Director



CONTENTS

PAGE

DESCRIPTION AND HISTORY OF VARIETIES 301

Annuals Are More Important in Illinois 301

Serecia a Promising New Perennial 307

PLACE OF LESPEDEZA IN ILLINOIS AGRICULTURE 308

Has Wide Use as a Pasture Crop 308

Furnishes Hay of High Quality 311

Seed Provides a Cash Crop 312

Valuable for Soil Improvement and Conservation 313

Well Suited to Corn-Belt Rotations 317

ADAPTATION OF LESPEDEZA 319

Climatic Limitations Few 319

Responds to Good Soils But Survives on Poor 322

ADAPTATION OF DIFFERENT VARIETIES 325

Seed Yield Tests 325

Hay Yield Tests 327

Varieties Recommended for Hay and Seed 329

RESPONSE OF LESPEDEZA TO SOIL TREATMENT 330

Limestone Improves Yields on Acid Soils 330

Phosphorus Occasionally Necessary 331

Potash Effective on Some Soils 331

Inoculation Essential 332

CULTURAL PRACTICES 334

Quality of Seed 334

Lespedeza Responds to Good Seed-Bed Preparation 336

Method of Seeding 337

Early Seeding Preferable 337

Rate of Seeding Depends on Use 339

Lespedeza Better Suited Than Other Legumes to Nurse Crops 339

Lespedeza May Be Used in Mixtures 339

Clipping for Weed Control 340

Best Quality Hay Harvested in Bloom Stage 341

Harvesting Seed 342

PESTS OF LESPEDEZA 343

Weeds Are Worst Enemy 343

Insects Cause Little Damage 345

Crop Relatively Disease-Free 345

SUMMARY AND CONCLUSIONS 346

LITERATURE CITED.. 347



Urbana, Illinois July, 1935

Publications in the Bulletin series report the results of investigations made
by or sponsored by the Experiment Station



LESPEDEZA IN ILLINOIS

By J. J. PIEPER, O. H. SEARS, and F. C. BAUER'

ESPEDEZA is a comparatively 'new crop in Illinois. It was in-
troduced after a vigorous search for a legume that would be
adapted to the rapidly increasing areas of acid and de-



pleted soils in the state than other legumes previously grown.

This new legume is not expected to replace other well-known
legumes, but to make it possible to grow larger acreages of legumes.
To farmers who have not succeeded in growing satisfactory crops of
alfalfa, sweet clover, and red clover, or who desire a legume more
tolerant to acid soils, lespedeza offers new possibilities. It will fit
into many Illinois farming systems because of its value as a hay and
pasture crop, its relative tolerance to soil acidity and resistance to
drouth, its relative freedom from insects and disease pests, and its
low cost of seeding. These characteristics and the fact that it is a
warm-weather crop make lespedeza ideally adapted to conditions in
southern Illinois. Thruout the southern third of the state it is rapidly
becoming the principal legume on many farms, while farther north it
is supplementing clovers and alfalfa.

Tho sometimes called a clover, lespedeza is not a clover any more
than are cowpeas, soybeans, or alfalfa. It does, however, belong to
the legume family and as such has valuable soil-enrichment properties
and high feeding value.

Since the Illinois Agricultural Experiment Station began to con-
duct experiments with lespedeza thirteen years ago, the areas sown
to this crop in Illinois have increased to more than 100,000 acres, and
today lespedeza must be ranked with the important legumes of the
state. This publication reports the results of experiments with
lespedeza made on experiment fields of various soil types thruout
Illinois from 1922 until the present time (Fig. 1).

DESCRIPTION AND HISTORY OF VARIETIES

Annuals Are More Important in Illinois

Five distinct commercial varieties of annual lespedezas are now
available in the United States. Three of these Common, Tennessee



J. J. PIEPER, Associate Chief in Crop Production ; O. H. SEARS, Associate
Chief in Soil Biology; and F. C. BAUER, Chief in Soil Experiment Fields.

301



302



BULLETIN No. 416



76, and Kobe belong to the species Lespedeza striata, and two of
them Korean and Harbin belong to the species Lespedeza stipu-
lacea. A number of other annual strains which are not commercially
available are being tested.

The annual lespedezas are small-branched plants which grow
either erect or spreading. Under the best conditions they attain a
height of 30 to 36 inches, but more often growth ranges from 5 to 15



SOUTH CENTRAL

L, NEWTON




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SOUTHERN'

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HJNIONVILLE



FIG. 1. LOCATION OF EXPERIMENT FIELDS ON WHICH
LESPEDEZA TESTS HAVE BEEN MADE

These twenty-five experiment fields may be considered representative of the
wide range of soil and climatic conditions that are found in Illinois.



inches. The small, numerous leaves are trifoliate as they are in the
clovers. The fibrous roots are medium-deep but numerous. The
small, inconspicuous purple flowers are borne on short stems in the
axils of the leaves. Blooming occurs from midsummer to early
fall. The dark purple seeds are about the size of red-clover seed
and are borne singly in pods, in which they are retained when
threshed. The size of the seed and the size of the calyx lobes, which



1935] LESPEDEZA IN ILLINOIS 303

partially enclose the brown hulls, vary with the variety and form a
basis for distinguishing one variety from another (Fig. 2).

Common. Sometime prior to 1846 a new legume was introduced





SERICEA COMMON




&r 9



KOREAN TENNESSEE 76



FIG. 2. SEED CHARACTERISTICS THAT DISTINGUISH DIFFERENT
VARIETIES OF LESPEDEZA

Sericea has a reddish brown hull, at the base of which is attached the
lighter colored calyx, which divides into five sharp lobes or sepals extend-
ing about half the length of the seed. The seed is light green, usually sold
with hull removed. Harbin has a distinctly netted brownish gray hull. The
sepals are often broken off on threshing, but when present extend less than
half the length of the seed. The seed is dark purple, usually sold in the
hull. Korean has a grayish hull and a dark purple seed similar in appear-
ance to Harbin. It is sold in the hull. Common is enclosed in a reddish
gray hull, which is retained on threshing. The calyx lobes extend more
than half the length of the seed and adhere tightly to the hull. The hulled
seed is dark purple with light irregular blotches and is much smaller than
Korean. Kobe has a gray hull with calyx lobes extending more than half
the length of the seed. The unhulled seed is somewhat larger than that of
other varieties; the hulled seed is reddish purple with greenish gray
blotches and is larger than Common. The seed is sold in the hull. Tennes-
see 76 has a reddish gray hull with calyx lobes extending more than half
the length of the seed. The hulled seeds are similar in size and color to
those of Common. The seed is sold in the hull.



304



BULLETIN No. 416



into the cotton belt of the United States from Japan, which later
became known as Japan clover or Common lespecleza. It grew wild
and soon spread thruout the South, becoming popular as an acid-
tolerant legume well adapted to poor land. It was first observed in
Illinois about twenty-five years ago and its worth as a forage crop
recognized by some farmers; because of its small growth, however,
it was given very little attention until recently. At the present time
Common lespedeza is widely distributed over the southern third of
Illinois and has produced sufficient seed, even in central Illinois, to







FIG. 3. CHARACTERISTIC GROWTH OF COMMON LESPEDEZA IN A THIN STAND

Common lespedeza has a decumbent or prostrate habit of growth where
the stand is thin. Where the stand is thick, however, it tends to grow more
nearly erect.



maintain a stand. It grows erect in thick stands but spreads out on
the ground when stands are thin (Fig. 3). In thin stands the plant
branches freely. It seldom reaches a height of more than 5 or 6
inches. The seeds are produced in the axils of the leaves along the
stems.

Tennessee 76. From the Common lespedeza a superior strain,
now known as Tennessee 76, was selected by the Tennessee Agri-
cultural Experiment Station 3 * in 1915. This strain grows tall and
erect and produces more hay than Common lespedeza. It is slightly
later than Common and in Illinois it has not been as good a seed
producer as Common or Kobe.

Kobe. Kobe lespedeza was first grown in South Carolina from
seed obtained in 1919 from near Kobe, Japan. It is slightly earlier



LESPEDEZA IN ILLINOIS



305



than the Common lespedeza but considerably later than Korean. In
thick stands it grows erect ; otherwise it has a spreading habit of
growth. It grows larger and coarser than Common. In Illinois the
seed yields have been similar to those of Common but not so large
as those of Korean.

Korean. Another annual species of lespedeza was introduced
into this country from Korea in 1919 by the U. S. Department of
Agriculture. It was given the name Korean. The young plants grow
more rapidly in the spring than do those of the other annual varieties




KOREAN



KOBE



COMMON



FIG. 4. KOREAN LESPEDEZA STARTS GROWTH EARLY
IN THE SPRING

The samples of spring growth of the three lespedezas shown above were
obtained from the Urbana field on April 19, 1933, by pressing open cylinders
into the soil and removing them with soil and plants intact. In these volunteer
seedings Korean germinated earlier and grew more rapidly in the spring than
Kobe or Common. Korean is also earlier than Tennessee 76.




FIG. 5. KOREAN LESPEDEZA GROWING IN A THIN STAND (LEFT)
AND IN A THICK STAND (RIGHT)

The growth habit of Korean lespedeza is influenced greatly by thickness of
stand. When the growth is thin, a single plant may spread over an area 2 to 3
feet in diameter. When the stand is thick, a plant forms a single upright stem
with but few branches.



306



BULLETIN No. 416



Uuly,



(Fig. 4). Korean blooms two weeks earlier and matures seed almost
a month before the other annuals. In thin stands it produces a
spreading growth but in a thick stand it grows erect (Fig. 5). It is
leafy, and the dense foliage is retained long after the plants are ma-
ture (Fig. 6). This species is a very good seed producer, leading all
other annual varieties.




FIG. 6. KOREAN LESPEDEZA IN ACTIVE GROWTH STAGE

The value of Korean lespedeza for pasture and hay is due to its fine stems
and leafy nature, which make for little waste when fed. The plants above were
photographed August 10, 1934, at Urbana. Korean retains its leaves late in the
fall, making it valuable for winter pasture.

Harbin. The most recently introduced annual lespedeza came
from a Russian cemetery at Harbin, Manchuria. It was discovered
and introduced into the United States in 1929 by the U. S. Depart-



1935] LESPEDEZA IN ILLINOIS 307

ment of Agriculture. Two strains have been selected from this
variety Strain 65280, sold commercially as Harbin, and Strain
59379, which is slightly larger and a few days later in maturity. Both
these strains belong to the same species as Korean. Harbin is the
earliest commercial strain in the United States. Like Korean, Harbin
has a more or less spreading habit of growth, except when grown
in thick stands. It is somewhat smaller than Korean. It is an ex-
cellent seed producer and promises to extend the lespedeza region at
least 200 miles farther north.

Sericea a Promising New Perennial

A perennial species of lespedeza now known as Sericea (Lespedeza
sericea), Strain 12087, was introduced from Japan by the U. S. De-
partment of Agriculture in 1925. Later it was learned that an intro-




FIG. 7. SERICEA LESPEDEZA GROWING IN Rows 30 INCHES APART

When grown for seed production, Sericea lespedeza is sown in rows, as
shown above, and reaches a height of 3VS to 4 feet. It produces a thick stand of
good hay when seeded solid.

duction of Sericea, Strain 04730, had been made twenty years earlier.
Some of the plants from this earlier introduction were still growing
on the government experiment farm near Washington, D. C, when
the second introduction was made.

Sericea was hailed as a great find because it is a perennial



308



BULLETIN No. 416



lespedeza, yet curiously enough all but two of the known 124 species
of lespedezas in the world are perennial. Seventeen of these are
to be found growing wild in the United States and about ten of
them in Illinois.

Sericea grows larger than the annual types/'' 11 * and may produce
as many as a hundred stems to a crown (Fig. 7). Altho Sericea
resembles alfalfa in some respects, it is easily distinguished by its small
leaves, its inconspicuous yellow or purple flowers, and its dense foliage.
It has not increased so rapidly in the United States as have the annual
lespedezas because of the high price of the seed, the difficulty of estab-
lishing a stand, and the coarseness of the perennial plant.

PLACE OF LESPEDEZA IN ILLINOIS AGRICULTURE

Has Wide Use as a Pasture Crop

Lespedeza finds its widest use in Illinois as a pasture crop, seeded
either alone or in mixtures (Fig. 8). It makes its best growth during




FIG. 8. PASTURING BEEF CATTLE ON LESPEDEZA

Lespedeza finds its widest use as a pasture crop. It thrives in hot weather
and makes its greatest growth during the summer months when pasture grasses
are more or less dormant.



the summer months and provides good grazing at a time when other
pasture crops are the least productive. When sown alone, it may be
pastured by the first of July. Korean, which does not lose its leaves
readily even when mature, may be pastured as late as December.
Other varieties furnish good pasture until killing frost.



19351 LESPEDEZA IN ILLINOIS 309

The amount of grazing furnished by lespedeza is dependent upon
the productiveness of the soil, seasonal conditions, particularly rainfall,
and upon pasture management. Even tho lespedeza grows upon poor
soils and is drouth-resistant, the best results are obtained on good
soils and with a favorable amount and distribution of rainfall.

Observations in Kentucky 6 * indicate that lespedeza pastures on
soils of medium productivity will carry 1,000 pounds of livestock an
acre for a period of 120 days, while on the more fertile fields twice
this amount of livestock can be carried in favorable seasons. Eth-
eridge et a/ 4 * state:

"At the Missouri Experiment Station, in the summer of 1928, a volun-
teer growth of Korean lespedeza, reseeded from a stand sown in the spring
of 1927, was pastured in order to learn its carrying capacity and its ability
to reseed under close grazing. Three two-year-old heifers, each weighing
about 800 pounds, were carried on three-fourths of an acre without supple-
mentary feed. They gained a total of 240 pounds over a period of 122
cattle days. In 1929 two yearling heifers, each weighing 581 pounds, grazed
from July 1 to September 4 on the volunteer stand produced by the natural
reseeding of 1928. For this period of 132 cattle days, the heifers made a
total gain of 137 pounds or 1.04 pounds daily per head from three-fourths
of an acre of pasture."

"At Sni-A-Bar Farm, Grain Valley, Missouri, 12 yearling heifers were
placed on 10 acres of lespedeza for a period of seven weeks from July 15
to September 2. They made a total gain of 706 pounds or an average
daily gain of 1.2 pounds in this period. The stand of lespedeza was very
dense and the cattle did not consume more than half of it. There were
also 430 ewes and 270 lambs in this field on 10 different days earlier in the
season. Finally a seed crop of about 400 pounds to the acre was harvested."

Hogs and chickens do well when pastured on lespedeza, and re-
cent trials at the Illinois Agricultural Experiment Station indicate that
it is highly productive as sheep pasture.

When early pasture is desired, lespedeza may be seeded in rye or
with oats or barley. These grain crops make excellent early pasture,
and after they are gone the lespedeza is large enough to afford satis-
factory grazing.

When seeded with sweet clover either in the original seeding or
in the spring of the second year's growth, lespedeza furnishes excel-
lent grazing by the middle of July, when sweet clover no longer pro-
vides succulent forage. The following year a stand of self -seeded
lespedeza will appear which may contain volunteer sweet clover as
well.

The seeding of lespedeza in redtop or in timothy for either meadow
or pasture improves both the quality and the quantity of the forage
produced. Furthermore lespedeza makes most of its gfowth when



310 BULLETIN No. 416

the grass crops are less abundant. Lespedeza may be used to thicken
a thin stand of bluegrass sod.

Altho lespedeza may be grazed too heavily to provide a maximum
number of pasture days, it is practically impossible for the animals
to graze it so close as to prevent seed formation. The lespedeza field
shown in Fig. 9 was grazed nearly to the ground, yet each plant ma-
tured three to twelve seeds.




FIG. 9. A LESPEDEZA FIELD HEAVILY GRAZED BY CATTLE

In areas where Korean lespedeza matures seed, it is practically impossible
to graze it sufficiently close to prevent seed formation. In the above field the
lespedeza was eaten nearly to the ground, being less than 2 inches high in
October, yet each plant matured three to twelve seeds.

Bloat is always a problem to consider in pasturing any new legume,
but limited experience of farmers indicates that lespedeza is less apt
to cause bloat or indigestion either with cattle or sheep than are the
other legumes. It is always a wise precaution to give the animals a
full feed before they are turned onto the lespedeza and then to keep
them on lespedeza pasture once they have started grazing on it.

Some Illinois farmers have reported that lespedeza causes horses
to slobber. While this observation is authentic, there is no reason to
believe that this effect is general, for many farmers have never ob-
served such a condition. It is believed that the tendency toward slob-
bering decreases after the horses have become accustomed to the
pasture, particularly if they have access to salt:



1935]



LESPEDEZA IN ILLINOIS



311



Furnishes Hay of High Quality

Lespedeza furnishes a hay of good quality on soils where alfalfa
and red clover are unadapted or perhaps uncertain crops. Tho the
lespedezas differ somewhat among themselves in composition, as
shown in Table 1, they are all nearly if not equal in value to the
other legume hays, whether judged on composition, on palatability,
or on results from feeding trials.

In a feeding trial with fattening steers at the Illinois Station,
Korean lespedeza proved superior to alfalfa and soybean hay with
respect to rate of gain, cost of gain, dressing percentage, and quality
of meat. 15 * From this experiment it was concluded that "the south-
ern corn belt has a promising new hay crop for cattle feeders in the
form of Korean lespedeza." Even the threshed straw of Korean
lespedeza is a source of good roughage. 12 * It retains a considerable
portion of the leaves, even after threshing, and tests with dairy cows
show that the threshed straw is only slightly inferior to soybean hay
in feeding value (Table 2).

Altho animals refuse but little of the annual lespedeza hays, the
stems of the perennial Sericea are somewhat coarser and are not so



TABLE 1. COMPOSITION OF LESPEDEZA AND OTHER LEGUME HAYS"



Crop


Moisture


Ether
extract


Protein


Crude
fiber


Ash


Alfalfa


perct.
8.6


perct.
2.3


perct.
14.9


perct.
28.3


perct.
8.6


Red clover


12.9


3.1


12.8


25.5


7.1


Soybeans


8.6


2.8


16.0


24.9


8.6


Lespedeza
Common


11.8


2.8


12.1


25.9


5.8


Korean


7.2


3.3


16.2


26.0


7.4


Sericea


5.9


1.8


12.3


30.1


6.0















Data are compiled from various sources.



TABLE 2. FEEDING VALUE OF LESPEDEZA STRAW AND SOYBEAN HAY*



Kind of feed


Number
of
cows


Feed consumed daily per cow


Gain
daily per
cow


Test
of
milk


Milk yield
daily per
cow


Silage


Straw or
hay


Grain


Lespedeza straw. . .
Soybean hay


18
18


Ibs.
28.4
28.4


Ibs.
12.0
12.8


Ibs.
12.8
12.8


Ibs.
.37
.08


perct.
3.71
3.78


Ibs.
33.5
35.5





From an experiment reported by Nevens, 11 * Illinois Agricultural Experiment Station.



312



BULLETIN No. 416



Uuly,



completely consumed. All but the coarsest stems, however, are eaten.
The proportion of coarse stems is dependent to a considerable extent
upon the stage of growth at which the hay is harvested.

Seed Provides a Cash Crop

The production of lespedeza seed has been more profitable during
the last six or eight years than it is likely to be in the future. An
increasing amount of seed grown both for home consumption and
for the general seed trade has resulted in a steady decline in price
during the last five years. Three factors have contributed to the




FIG. 10. RETAIL PRICES OF KOREAN LESPEDEZA SEED

The rapid price decline of lespedeza seed during the period 1930-1935 with
the increase in supplies of seed available is characteristic of any promising new
crop.

increased production and the resulting lower prices: (1) a market
sufficiently high to stimulate seed production, (2) relatively high
seed yields per acre, and (3) ease of harvesting seed.

Retail prices for the Korean variety from 1930 to 1935 indicate the
downward trend in price as the crop became established (Fig. 10).
The price of Sericea has shown even more marked changes. In
1932 seed sold as high as $25 a pound, whereas in 1933 it sold as
low as 25 cents a pound.

The present low price of lespedeza seed compared with other
legumes is one of the reasons for the popularity and economy of
this crop. Not only is the initial seed cost an acre usually lower
than that of the legumes commonly grown, but one seeding is usually
sufficient for several years' growth.



1935}



LESPEDEZA IN ILLINOIS



313



Valuable for Soil Improvement and Conservation
Lespedeza is so new as an Illinois crop that it is not yet possible
to appraise fully its soil-improvement value, tho its habits of growth,
its composition, and other characteristics suggest that it will rank
high in this respect.

When nodulated, lespedeza acquires a considerable portion of its
nitrogen from the air and its mineral nutrients from less readily
available sources in the soil, as do other legumes. In adapted regions
lespedeza will grow on soils of lower fertility levels than will the
biennial and perennial legumes frequently used for soil-improvement
purposes. These characteristics make lespedeza especially valuable for
soil improvement. Lespedeza yields on three fields in southern and
south-central Illinois are shown in Table 3.



TABLE 3. ACRE- YIELDS OF KOREAN LESPEDEZA HAY SPRING-SEEDED WITH SWEET
CLOVER IN WHEAT ON UNLIMED AND LIMED LAND OF Low PRO-
DUCTIVITY, THREE-YEAR AVERAGE, 1932-1934



Field and soil


Soil-acidity factors


Acre-yields'"


Reaction


Degree of
saturation*


Lime re-
quirement


Wheat


Lespedeza
hay



Unlimed land



Newton, south-central Illinois
Mature flat gray prairie


PH
4.9


Perct.
17


tons
5


bu.
2.1


Ibs.
127


Unionville, southern Illinois



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