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. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. Hairy Vetch Vicia villosa

    Hairy Vetch, sand vetch, Sand Vetch, Winter Vetch

    Native to Europe or western Asia, Vicia villosa is suited to cooler climates. It is a viny legume with long, soft hairs on the stems and leaves. Branching, stems/vines are prostrate (30-70 cm), but can climb (up to 1-2 m) stalks of any neighboring plants. Stems support long, hanging groups of...
  8. Cowpea Vigna unguiculata subsp. unguiculata

    Cowpea, Black Eyed Pea, Crowder

    Vigna unquiculata is a grain legume that originates in Africa. Attributes such as vine shape (climbing, prostrate, or semi-erect), seed color (shades of white, pink, brown, and black) and seed maturation time (60 to 240 days) vary with variety. Pods appear in V-shaped pairs.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. 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.
  13. 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.
  14. 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.
  15. 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.
  16. Buckwheat Fagopyrum esculentum

    Buckwheat, Beech Wheat

    Buckwheat is a temperate, or high altitude tropical, annual, upright plant growing to 1 m in height. It is grown for the seeds which are used for human consumption and livestock feed. Buckwheat is also useful as a green manure or cover crop.
  17. 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...
  18. Jack Bean Canavalia ensiformis

    Jack Bean, Horse Bean, Habichuela Espada, Horse Bean, Gotani Bean, wonder bean

    Canavalia ensiformis is native to the West Indies and Central America. It closely resembles Sword Bean, C. gladiata, and the predominantly African wild species, C. virosa. C. ensiformis is widely distributed in the tropics and subtropics although it is regarded as a minor vegetable rather than a...
  19. Bay Bean Canavalia rosea (formerly maritima)

    Beach Bean, Bay Bean, Mackenzie Bean, Seaside jack bean, Coastal Jack Bean

    Canavalia rosea is a leguminous, drought and salt tolerant vine adapted to growing under very dry and hot conditions. Vines are widely distributed on beaches and dunes in the tropics and subtropics, also western and northern Australia. They can reach lengths of 6 m, with a compact canopy 15-30 cm...
  20. Hairy Indigo Indigofera hirsuta

    Hairy Indigo

    Hairy indigo is a reseeding annual, nitrogen-fixing, erect, bushy plant, up to 2.5 m in height. It is used as a forage, summer fallow, green manure, or cover crop.
  21. Lablab Lablab purpureus

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

    Lablab purpureus is capable of growing in a wide range of climatic conditions and soil types, depending upon the variety chosen. It is widely cultivated throughout the tropics and subtropics and occurs wild in tropical Africa (including Madagascar) and India. The palatability of lablab surpasses...
  22. Grass Pea Lathyrus sativus

    Grass Pea, Indian Vetch, Chickling Pea, Indian Pea

    Grass pea is an annual, vining or climbing, drought-tolerant, nitrogen-fixing plant, up to 1 m in height, adapted to cooler temperatures, and higher altitudes in the tropics. It is a multipurpose legume, the seeds of non-toxic forms used for human consumption, and the plant used for forage,...
  23. White Lupine Lupinus albus

    White Lupine, Sweet Lupine

    White lupine is a cool season, nitrogen-fixing, bushy, annual plant up to 1.6 m in height, and adapted to higher altitudes in the tropics. It is mainly used for forage, green manure or cover crops but non-toxic modern varieties have been developed for human consumption.
  24. Siratro Macroptilium atropurpureum

    Siratro, Atro, Surple Bean, Conchito

    The exact origin of this crop is not known but it is commonly grown from southern Texas south to Peru. It was named “Siratro” and first hybridized in the early 1960’s.
  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. Velvet Bean Mucuna pruriens

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

    Velvet bean is a vigorous, nitrogen-fixing, bushy or vining, annual plant. The vines will climb anything available and can reach 10 m or more in length. Velvet bean is somewhat drought tolerant and is an excellent green manure or cover crop with ability to suppress weeds and provide generous...
  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

    Stylosanthes guianensis is an upright, short-lived perennial legume. At maturity, the crop is a deeply taprooted and multi-stemmed sub-shrub. Leaves are trifoliate, and yellow-to-orange flowers are borne on spikes. Flowers give way to one-seeded pods, 2-3 cm long, containing small brown-to-purple...
  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

    The genus Leucaena includes several multipurpose tree species and interspecific hybrids that can withstand almost any type or frequency of pruning or coppicing. They are native to Mexico and Central America, and now abundant in the Philippines, West Africa, Nepal, Australia and Hawaii. Spanish...
  39. American Joint Vetch Aeschynomene americana

    American Joint Vetch, Deer Vetch, shyleaf

    Aeschynomene americana is an annual legume forage crop and green manure cover crop. Considered a “subshrub,” A. americana can reach heights of 1-2 m. Pinnately compound leaves are finely textured, with 25-60 leaflets per leaf. Borne on pubescent stems, leaves reach 7.5 cm in length. Flowers...
  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.
  44. Cereal Rye Secale cereale

    Winter rye, Common rye, Cultivated rye

    Secale cereale is an upright, annual, cool season, grain-bearing grass. A tufted grass with hollow stems, S. cereale reaches heights of 2 m. The blue-green leaves are borne on tillers, supported by extensive root systems that extend up to 2 m in the soil. Spike flowers give way to heads of pale...