There are two Annual Lespedezas
used for pasture and hay in Illinois: Striate (or Common) and
Korean. Common originated in Japan, and was introduced into the
United States in 1846. Korean was introduced from Korea in 1919.
A good way to distinguish the
two from each other is by their stem hairs. The hairs on Korean
slant up, while those on Common slant down.
The leaves of Korean turn upward
after flowering to protect the seed pods. Leaves do not protect
the seed pod on Common.
The plant will vary in height
from four to 24 inches, depending on growing conditions. The
flowers range from purple to pink in all varieties.
Annual lespedeza will grow in
most types of soil that are well drained. Lespedezas tolerate
low fertility, yet respond to lime and phosphorus. Annual lespedeza
is best suited to a pH of 5.5 - 6.0, but can produce good yields
with pH levels as low as 5.0.
Lespedeza is very drought resistant,
likes hot weather, and produces well throughout the warm season.
Being an annual, year-to-year production is more dependent on
the current weather conditions.
Annual lespedeza was more widely
used in the 1940s and 1950s. Several factors contributed to its
decline: the drought of 1953 and 1954; susceptibility to bacterial
wilt and tar spot; and the increased use of fertilizer on fescue.
Legumes find it difficult to compete with fertilized, aggressive
Annual lespedeza should be planted
in the spring, into a well prepared, firm seedbed, to which any
needed fertilizer has been incorporated. An alternate method
is to broadcast over pastures in late winter, allowing normal
freezing and thawing to work the seed into the soil. Frost seeding
is often done during fertilizer application, and can be quite
successful if the nitrogen level is limited.
Check with the Natural Resources
Conservation Service or University Extension for proper seeding
Once established, enough seed
should be produced to perpetuate the stand.
The Korean varieties best adapted
to Illinois are Korean and Summit. Kobe and Marion are the best
adapted Striate or Common types for Illinois.
Lespedeza is a non-bloating legume
that is palatable to all kinds of grazing livestock, and does
a good job of supplying high quality forage during the warm season
when cool-season grasses become dormant.
Established with endophyte infected
fescue, the effect is diluted by supplying a non-contaminated
component to the ration.
When mature, an anti-lactation
factor in the seed can cause a reduction in milk production in
Hay yields, though not high,
are good quality with few curing problems because of the late
Annual lespedeza is compatible
with most of the cool-season grasses as long as nitrogen levels
are not too high.
Lespedeza may be one of the best
legumes to use with warm-season grasses because of matches in
growth cycle. Probably one of the best at surviving close, continuous
grazing. When closely grazed, Lespedeza tends to grow low to
the ground and escapes utilization allowing seed production.
The seed provides a high quality
food for quail and other seed-eating wildlife. The forage is
used as browse by deer, turkey and rabbits. The ability to provide
good production with lower levels of management, annual lespedeza
works well in low input forage systems.
For more information about annual
lespedeza, contact the local office of the Natural Resources
Conservation Service listed in the telephone directory under
U.S. Government, or the University of Illinois Cooperative
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