Published: 2017-03-30


Appropriate forage crops for clay soils

Question from our Network

"In Honduras, I am dealing with a very challenging soil situation. It is at 4000 feet of elevation. It is a clay that packs very tight almost impossible to dig when dry. About half of the year it is very dry and a few months of the year it is very wet. Can you recommend forage trees or shrubs that could be used as cut and carry for sheep in this location?  In other words, what forage plants tolerate both drought and water logged situations at an elevation of 4000 feet?"  - Tom Braak

Suggestions from ECHO Interns Melissa Larson and Meg Robel

Here is a list of forage trees that will be excellent fodder for sheep (I have used both the gliricidia and lucaena with good results in Honduras). These should be able to withstand the over wet and then over dry clay soils, and should be readily found throughout the country. 

1 - Gliricidia sepium – Madreado

Family: Fabaceae (alt. Leguminosae) subfamily: Faboideae tribe: Robinieae. Also placed in: Papilionaceae.

CACN 1 Image 10

Sheep eating Gliricidia sepium.
Source: Brad Ward

Medreado is a native to the seasonal forest areas of Mexico, Central America and Belize. Among its many uses are living fences, hedges, cut and carry feed for ruminants and alley farming. In its native range it is found on highly eroded soils of volcanic nature. It is also found in sandy and heavy clay soils. It is highly tolerant of draughts retaining its leaves in areas which retain humidity year round. Its high nutritive quality is valued as green forage and protein supplement to lo-quality tropical forage products for cattle, sheep and goats. Following is the link to the information sheet:     
http://www.tropicalforages.info/key/Forages/Media/Html/Gliricidia_sepium.htm

2 - Leucaena leucocephala – Leucaena / Guaje:

Family/tribe: Fabaceae (alt. Leguminosae) subfamily: Mimosoideae tribe: Mimoseae. Also placed in: Mimosaceae.

The Yucatan Peninsula and the Isthmus of Tehuantepec in southern Mexico are its native areas.  It is also widely distributed throughout the tropics. Native inhabitants of Mexico and Central America have used the unripe pods and seeds of all subspecies as food and medicine. In its native range it grows in shallow limestone soil, sandy and seasonally dry soils.  Its foliage has very high nutrient value for ruminants. It is highly palatable to most grazing animals. Below is the link to the fact sheet: 
http://www.tropicalforages.info/key/Forages/Media/Html/Leucaena_leucocephala.htm

3 - Albizia lebbeck – Lengua de mujer:

Family: Fabaceae (alt. Leguminosae) subfamily: Mimosoideae tribe: Ingeae.

It is found monsoon forests, and rainforests of its native habitat, and in a variety of situations in the humid and semi-arid tropics and subtropics. Prefers well drained soils with high to mild fertility but will grow in less fertile soils. It is draught tolerant. Green leaf, fallen leaf and flowers have all been shown to be highly palatable and of high nutritive value for sheep.To access the fact sheet visit:    
http://www.tropicalforages.info/key/Forages/Media/Html/Albizia_lebbeck.htm

4 - Erythrina poeppingiana – Coral Bean / Pito Extranjero

Family: Fabaceae (alt. Leguminosae) subfamily: Fabpodeae tribe: Phaseoleae subtribe: Erythrininae.  Also placed in: Papilionaceae.

It is cultivated as an introduced species in Central America, the Caribbean and south Asia.  Tolerates low soil fertility and soil textures from heavy clays to coarse sand. It has adapted to humid and sub-humid regions and can be used to drain soils. Fodder is used as a ruminant feed. It is well accepted by pen-fed goats. For greater detail on its use as animal feed visit the link below.  
http://www.tropicalforages.info/key/Forages/Media/Html/Erythrina_poeppigiana.htm