Aeschynomene is a warm-season annual legume adapted to moist sites throughout the state, but it is mainly grown in South Florida.
Aeschynomene americana, or common aeschynomene, is a true annual that flowers and produces seed in the early fall. Plants usually die after seed has matured, but the stand can be managed to re-seed and maintain itself in good production for several years after first establishement. Common aeschynomene has a high nutritive value and is very palatable to cattle and deer. It has been used in the cattle industry and for wildlife plantings for many years.
Aeschynomene grows best on moist, fertile soils. It is more tolerant of extremely wet conditions than of drought. Surface drainage is needed especially during establishment. Although well-established plants can withstand short periods of flooding, young plants (seedlings) can be injured or killed if plants are completely submerged in water. In general, aeschynomene is adapted to the moist flatwood areas throughout the state.
Lime and Fertilizer
If the soil pH is below 5.0, the site should be limed to raise the pH to between 5.5 and 6.0. Plant nutrients should be applied after a successful stand of seedlings has emerged. After the seedlings are 2 weeks old, fertilize with 30 lbs/A of P2O5 and 60 lbs/A of K2O if the soil tests are low or medium in these plant nutrients. Micronutrients are not generally recommended on land that has been fertilized for several years, unless poor plant growth and appropriate symptoms indicate a deficiency.
Rotational grazing is recommended when plants reach a height of 18 inches. A stocking rate of 2 to 5 animal units per acre has been suggested. Graze the plants back to about 8 to 14 inches and move to the next pasture. Maintaining a 14-inch stubble will allow for maximum regrowth and good seed production.
Aeschynomene provides much needed protein in July, August and September when perennial grasses are usually deficient in protein. Protein in leaves and young stems of aeschynomene will exceed 20%. Nursing calves that have common aeschynomene available will gain an extra 30 to 50 lbs compared to calves that have only perennial grass.
Aeschynomene is best suited for grazing in a mixture with grass. Although some hay and silage have been made, neither process works very well. The plants are high in moisture and mucilaginous (sticky) which causes problems in handling fresh material. When dried, the leaves and small stems become very brittle, causing high losses in hay making.
Seed of common aeschynomene may be bought with the hull removed (naked) or intact. There are approximately twice as many seed per pound when the hull has been removed compared to when the hull is attached. Seed with the hull removed may be planted at 5 to 8 lbs/A. If seeded with a precision planter on a clean-tilled seedbed, the lower seeding rate may be used. Broadcast seeding requires the higher seeding rate, especially when seed are broadcast on established pasture sod.
Seeding date can be critical to successful establishment. Aeschynomene is usually planted in June when the summer rains start. It has been planted successfully in April and May when spring rainfall has been above normal. Try to plant to establish new stands or lightly disk old stands to encourage seed germination when the chances are greatest for continued good soil moisture. Stand failure of aeschynomene is mainly caused by inadequate soil moisture at or shortly after seeding.
The greatest chance for successful establishment occurs when plantings are made in June after a spring when rainfall has been greater than normal and the soil profile is saturated. When seedings are made prior to June 1 or the start of the summer rainy period, use seed with the hulls attached at the rate of 25 lbs/A. Immediate germination will range from 5 to 10%. If these seedlings die due to drought, there will be plenty of seed to germinate when the next rain comes. When planting after June 1, use seed with the hull removed, which may have an immediate germination as high as 90 to 95%. Use 5 lbs/A on a clean-tilled seedbed and 8 lbs/A on sod. A 50/50 mixture of seed with and without hulls can be used at all times of planting to provide security against establishment failures due to drought or short periods of excessive moisture
Certain management practices should be followed to minimize competition of the bahiagrass with the aeschynomene seedlings and allow for successful establishment. These practices include: 1) burning excess bahiagrass in late winter if there is enough fuel to carry a fire; 2) no application of nitrogen during the spring preceding planting of the aeschynomene; 3) removal of excess bahiagrass before seeding by grazing close (2 to 4 inches); 4) close grazing and chopping or disking are useful to reduce bahiagrass competition when soil moisture is plentiful; and 5) continued grazing after seeding until the aeschynomene seedlings are about 2 inches tall. Remove cattle before they graze the tops of the seedlings. Allow the aeschynomene plants to reach a height of 12 to 18 inches before grazing. If self re-seeding of the stand or seed production of common aeschynomene is contemplated, then cattle must be removed from pasture from mid- August through November of the year of establishment to allow the crop to flower and set seed. This kind of spelling is not required for evenia which flowers and seeds throughout the year. Chopping or light-disking of pasture in spring every couple of years promotes regeneration of aeschynomene from soil seed-bank reserve.
Various seeding methods and types of seeders can be used. Sod-seeding drills are useful and result in less soil moisture loss from the soil surface as compared to broadcast methods where light disking or chopping, seeding and rolling are used to obtain seed-to-soil contact. Regardless of the method used, seed should be placed at 1/2 to 3/4 inch deep.