A wide variety of plants can be used as pasture and forage crops in the tropics.  Of these, a few are particularly important due to their wide adaptability, ease of growth, high yield potential, and high nutritional value. Most of these are either grasses or legumes. The majority of the grasses herein are highly suitable for permanent pastures, although a few are usually cut and carried to the animals. Unfortunately, there are few legume and grass combinations that are compatible in pastures of the tropics; however, we do have several legumes suitable for mixed pastures and are eager to hear how they grow in various areas. An ECHO Technical Note on Forages is available.


  1. Desmanthus Desmanthus virgatus

    Desmanthus, Hedge Lucerne, False Tamarind, Donkey Bean, Bundle Flower, Dwarf Koa

    Desmanthus is a nitrogen-fixing, prostrate, perennial, tropical shrub that can be used as a green manure/cover crop and as fodder for livestock. This shrub is adaptable to a range of environments and is tolerant of drought.
  2. Tick Trefoil Desmodium rensonii

    Tick Trefoil

    Desmodium rensonii is an erect, nitrogen-fixing, perennial shrub. This species is one of the preferred plants for the SALT (Sloping Agricultural Land Technology) technique developed in the Philippines in the 1980’s. It is an excellent hedgerow and alley cropping plant that produces good amounts...
  3. Greenleaf Desmodium Desmodium intortum

    Greenleaf Desmodium, Begger Lice, Kuru Vine

    Greenleaf desmodium is a vining, nitrogen-fixing, perennial legume adapted to tropical and sub-tropical climates. It is a good forage in mixed legume/grass pastures.
  4. Evenia Aeschynomene evenia (Aeschynomene indica L.?)

    Evenia, White Ball Acacia, Fern Leaf Acacia

    Aeschynomene evenia is a short-lived perennial. Evenia fares well in areas that have an abundance of rain as it tolerates waterlogging and maintains its nutritive content when other grasses are declining. Seeded in very early spring in tropical pasture land, it will be well established in 2-3...
  5. Flemingia Flemingia macrophylla

    Flemingia

    Flemingia is a woody, leguminous, deep-rooted shrub native to Asia but now found in Sub-Saharan Africa and Malaysia.
  6. Silk Tree Albizia lucida

    Silk Tree

    Albizia lucida is a nitrogen-fixing reforestation tree that grows quickly and tolerates poor soil and waterlogging. Timber from this tree is used for furniture, construction, and pulp. It can also be used as high protein fodder and a shade tree.
  7. White Clover Trifolium repens

    White Clover, Ladino Clover, Dutch Clover

    White clover is a low, spreading, nitrogen-fixing perennial, that provides nutritious forage and is usually grown in grass/legume pasture systems. It can also be used as a green manure or cover crop.
  8. Hairy Vetch Vicia villosa

    Hairy Vetch, sand vetch, Sand Vetch, Winter Vetch

    Hairy vetch is a temperate, annual, nitrogen-fixing, vining plant that can be up to 70 cm in height. It is used for pasture, hay, silage, green manure or cover crop, and is tolerant of acid soil.
  9. Cowpea Vigna unguiculata subsp. unguiculata

    Cowpea, Black Eyed Pea, Crowder

    Cowpea can be erect, climbing, vining, or prostrate, is a nitrogen-fixing annual, and is one of the most common legumes globally. The young pods, mature green seeds and dry seeds are eaten, and for livestock it is consumed as hay, pasture, or dried vines and pods. Cowpea is also an excellent...
  10. Naked Oat Avena nuda

    Naked Oat, Avena Sin Cáscara

    Naked oats are an annual grass crop for cool weather with moist, well drained soil. In the tropics they do best in highland areas as a cover crop or forage. The grain is edible when cooked.
  11. Turnip Brassica rapa var. rapifera

    Turnip, Turnip Greens, Turnip Rape, Field Mustard

    Turnips are a cruciferous crop (cabbage family) grown for the edible fleshy taproot. The leaves are also a good nutritious green leafy vegetable. There are also varieties that have been developed as a forage crop.
  12. Roundleaf Cassia Chamaecrista rotundifolia

    Roundleaf Cassia, Wynn Cassia

    Roundleaf cassia is a short-lived perennial, nitrogen-fixing shrub, growing up to 1 m tall. It is adapted to sandy soils and semi-arid environments. It provides good quality forage for livestock and is used as a legume in mixed grass/legume pasture systems.
  13. Centurion Centrosema pascuorum

    Centurion, Centurion Centro

    Centurion is a fast-growing, annual, prostrate, nitrogen-fixing, drought-resistant, nutritious forage species for the seasonally dry tropics. It is an excellent legume for mixed pastures and is also planted as a hay crop.
  14. Tree Lucerne Chamaecytisus prolifer

    Tree lucerne, Tagasaste

    Tree lucerne is a fast-growing, nitrogen fixing, shrub or small tree. It produces high yields of palatable, nutritious fodder as well as shade for livestock. It can also be used for fuelwood and bee forage.
  15. Desmodium Desmodium heterocarpon

    Desmodium, Carpon

    This species of Desmodium is a nitrogen-fixing,short-lived perennial shrub. It does well in mixed legume/grass pastures and provides good quality forage.
  16. Finger Millet Eleusine coracana

    Finger Millet, Ragi, Kurakkan, African Millet

    Finger millet is a short, annual grass to 1 m in height, grown for its small grains that are usually ground into flour for porridge. More drought tolerant than maize or sorghum, finger millet is also higher in protein, fat and minerals than those crops.
  17. Buckwheat Fagopyrum esculentum (syn. F. sagittatum Gilib)

    Buckwheat, Beech Wheat

    Buckwheat originated in East Asia. Buckwheat is both a food grain and a feed grain. It is called a pseudocereal, as buckwheat is not a grass species like the true cereals such as maize, rice, or wheat.
  18. Forage Peanut Arachis pintoi

    Forage Peanut

    Forage Peanut is a prostate, nitrogen-fixing, perennial plant, used mostly as a cover crop for erosion, weed, and fire control. It is favored for these purposes in tree plantations, as it will tolerate some shade. It also makes for good cattle and poultry grazing if a 30-day rest period is...
  19. Jack Bean Canavalia ensiformis

    Jack Bean, Févérole, Horse Bean, Habichuela Espada, Horse Bean, Overlook Bean, Gotani Bean

    Jack bean is an annual or short-lived perennial, nitrogen-fixing, vining, very drought-tolerant plant highly valued for use as a green manure or cover crop. It is a useful species for tropical soil reclamation efforts because of its deeply penetrating root system, contribution of nitrogen, and...
  20. Beach Bean Canavalia maritima syn. rosea

    Beach Bean, Bay Bean, Mackenzie Bean

    Beach Bean is a leguminous, drought and salt tolerant vine adapted to growing under very dry and hot conditions. History says that it was an important food crop for Captain James Cook and his crew on their voyage around the world from 1768-1771. Vines are widely distributed on beaches and dunes...
  21. Hairy Indigo Indigofera hirsuta

    Hairy Indigo

    Hairy Indigo, a leguminous plant, is native to tropical Africa, southern Asia and northern Australia. Hairy Indigo is an erect-growing, reseeding, summer annual legume that may grow 1-2 m (4-7 ft) tall if not grazed. It produces heavy foliage on fine stems that become course in latter stages of...
  22. Lablab Lablab purpureus

    Lablab Bean, Bonavist, Egyptian Kidney Bean, Hyacinth Bean, Dolique, Dolique D'Égypte

    Lablab is a vigorous, vining, nitrogen-fixing, short-lived perennial that produces edible seeds which can eaten fresh or as a dry bean. It is an excellent choice for forage, green manure, and cover crops. Flowers and young pods are also eaten as a vegetable.
  23. Grass Pea Lathyrus sativus

    Grass Pea, Indian Vetch, Chickling Pea, Indian Pea

    Originating in the Eastern Mediterranean, this leguminous plant was domesticated 8,000 years ago and now grows mostly in Ethiopia, India, China, and surrounding countries. Grass Pea can be grown as an annual crop in poor, dry or flooded soil, in arid and semi-arid regions, at high temperatures or...
  24. White Lupine Lupinus albus

    White Lupine, Sweet Lupine

    It is believed that lupines have been cultivated for 2,000 years, beginning in Egypt. Until recently, nearly all of the 300 lupinus species were considered bitter (high-alkaloid).
  25. White Hoarypea Tephrosia candida

    White Hoarypea, White Tephrosia

    This 2-3 m (7-10 ft) high member of the pea family, White Hoarypea, was first grown in the tropical foothills of the Himalayan mountains of India. Since then it has been introduced into Southeast Asia, the West Indies, South America and some African countries. It is a nitrogen-fixing, perennial...
  26. Alfalfa Medicago sativa

    Alfalfa, Lucerne, Medic

    Alfalfa is a low-growing, nitrogen-fixing perennial, with a strong taproot. Many varieties of alfalfa have been developed for excellent hay and forage. It has long been one of the most important forage species for livestock production.
  27. Glycine Neonotonia wightii

    Glycine

    Glycine is a perennial, vining, nitrogen-fixing, green manure or cover crop that may be grown to suppress weed growth, improve the soil nitrogen supply, and slow soil erosion. It is also a forage crop that can be grown in pure stands for hay or in a mixed pasture system.
  28. Vining Velvet Bean Mucuna pruriens

    velvet bean, Bengal Bean, Poil à Gratter, Mucuna, Picapica, Pwa Grate, Fève De Velours

    Vining forms of velvet bean grow rapidly, with climbing or trailing vines 6-8 m long. The leaves are large and trifoliate with lateral leaflets 7–15 cm long, 5–12 cm wide. Flowers are light purple or white, resulting in pods 4-13 cm in length. Wild forms have pods with hairs that, due to a...
  29. Proso Millet Panicum miliaceum

    Proso Millet, Common Millet, Hog Millet, Broomcorn Millet

    Proso millet is an erect, tillering, annual grass, growing to 1 m in height, that is grown for the small seeds used for human consumption and livestock food. Proso millet was one of the earliest cultivated grains in the world. It is fairly drought tolerant and has a short growing season.
  30. Pearl Millet Pennisetum glaucum

    Pearl Millet, Bulrush Millet, Cattail Millet, Candle Millet, Bajra, Candlestick Millet

    Pearl millet is an annual, tillering grass, growing to 4 m in height, and more drought tolerant than maize. The seed head is compact, cylindrical and up to 30 cm long. The grains are ground into flour for preparation of porridge, flat breads and fermented products. Pearl millet is widely grown...
  31. Shrubby Stylo Stylosanthes scabra

    Shrubby Stylo

    Shrubby Stylo is of South American origin having spread through Brazil into most tropical countries. ECHO distributes three types of Stylosanthes: S. guianensis, S. scabra, S. hamata.
  32. Common Stylo Stylosanthes guianensis

    Common Stylo, Tropical Lucerne, Brazilian Lucerne

    Common stylo is a vigorous, nitrogen-fixing, perennial shrub, growing up to 1.2 m in height, that is often used in grass/legume pasture mixes. It is adapted to poor, acid soils, provides good forage into the dry season, and can be used as a green manure or cover crop.
  33. Grain Sorghum Sorghum bicolor

    Grain Sorghum, Milo, Guinea Corn, Shattercane, Durra, Karrir Corn, Broomcorn

    Sorghum is an annual plant in the grass family up to 5 m in height. Grain sorghum is a staple in many hot, dry areas and ranks 5th worldwide among cereal grains. Depending on the variety, sorghum is grown for grain, forage, fuel, fiber, syrup and sugar. Cleaned grain can be cooked like rice or...
  34. Crimson Clover Trifolium incarnatum

    Crimson Clover, Scarlet Clover, Italian Clover

    Crimson clover is a temperate, annual, nitrogen-fixing plant that can grow to 1 m in height. This clover is grown for seed, hay, silage, pasture for most livestock, and soil improvement. It is widely grown as a winter crop to be tilled under in the spring.
  35. Red Clover Trifolium pratense

    Red Clover, Peavine Clover, Cowgrass

    Red Clover is a temperate legume native to moist meadows, cool, open forests and field borders of central Europe, India and south of the Russia Arctic. It is now widely cultivated around the world.
  36. Caribbean Stylo Stylosanthes hamata

    Caribbean Stylo, Verano, Lucy Julia

    Caribbean stylo is a tropical, nitrogen-fixing, short-lived perennial, semi-erect or prostrate herbaceous plant, that can withstand grazing and is tolerant of poor soils. It is usually grown in native or established permanent pastures and provides nutritious forage for livestock.
  37. Maize Zea mays

    Maize, Corn, Indian Corn, Sweet Corn

    Maize is an annual, warm-climate crop in the grass family, thriving in open sunny environments with daytime temperatures of 20-24C. Maize is used fresh, frozen, canned, rolled and roasted for corn flakes, pressed for oil, or processed for ethanol as fuel. Maize is also an important feed source...
  38. Leucaena Leucaena diversifolia, L. leucocephala, L. pallida X L. leucocephala

    Leucaena, Lead Tree, Wild Tamarind, Jumbie Bean

    Leucaena is a multipurpose tree species that can withstand almost any type or frequency of pruning or coppicing. It is native to Mexico and Central America, and now abundant in the Philippines, West Africa, Nepal, Australia and Hawaii. Spanish sailing vessels reportedly introduced Leucaena to...
  39. American Joint Vetch Aeschynomene americana

    American Joint Vetch, Deer Vetch

    American jointvetch is an erect, annual, or short-lived perennial shrub that grows well in moist locations. It a good forage legume for low, wet areas and drainage ditches, and can also be used as a green manure and cover crop.
  40. Foxtail Millet Setaria italica

    Foxtail Millet, Italian Millet

    Foxtail millet is an annual grass crop, up to 1.5 m in height, and one of the most water efficient (250-300 mm per crop), short term (60-70 days), warm weather crops which can be used as a “catch” crop, planted after another crop has failed. The grain can be cooked whole or ground into flour....
  41. Guazuma Guazuma ulmifolia

    West Indian elm, Bay Cedar

    Guazuma is a small to medium-sized tree that grows up to 30 m tall. Its leaves form a compact, rounded canopy, remaining green throughout the year except in areas with a long dry season. It is used as a source of fuelwood, shade, and fodder for livestock.
  42. Stylosanthes macrocephala Stylosanthes macrocephala

    macrocephala

    Stylosanthes macrocephala is a nitrogen-fixing, low-growing, perennial shrub growing up to 80 cm in height. It is similar to S. capitata, adapted to poor, acidic soils, and provides good forage for livestock.
  43. Stylosanthes capitata Stylosanthes capitata

    Stylo

    Stylosanthes capitata is a short-lived perennial, nitrogen-fixing, small shrub grown for forage. It is suitable for acidic soils and is usually grown in mixed pastures.