Due to a later flowering date, early fall frosts significantly reduce seed production of striate lespedeza compared to Korean. For this reason, its use is limited to southern and western Kentucky if consistent seed set is desired.
Striate, found in Georgia as early as 1846, has become distributed across the southeastern United States and is known as "common" or "wild jap" lespedeza. Kobe was the first named cultivar of striate because it originated in Kobe, Japan. Korean lespedeza was introduced into the U.S. in 1919 from Korea.
Annual lespedezas can be used as renovation legumes for cool season grasses. The keys to establishment in existing sods are getting seed in firm contact with soil and reducing the competition from the grass. Broadcast or drill 15 pounds of seed per acre into existing grass swards in late winter or early spring. Broadcast lespedeza seed in late February or early March onto very closely grazed sod. Freezing and thawing of the soil surface works the seed into good contact with soil. Disturbing the sod with a light disking prior to broadcasting improves stand establishment. For late March and early April seedings, seeding with a no-till drill is recommended.
Minimize grass competition by avoiding any spring nitrogen applications and grazing or clipping the pasture closely in late April and May. Missouri research indicates that greatest lespedeza production occurs when the cool season grass growth is removed by clipping or grazing by mid- to late May (Table 1). Inoculate seed with rhizobia that are specific for annual lespedeza.
|Table 1. Effect of timing of first harvest on season-long dry matter (DM), digestible dry matter (DDM), and crude protein (CP) yields of tall fescue-annual lespedeza mixtures.|
|Grass Stage at First Cutting1||DM, lb/A||DDM, lb/A||CP, lb/A|
|Boot to early head||6360||3390||750|
|1Yields are total of 3 harvests. Date of first harvest is variable, dates of second and third harvests are approximately August 1 and October 1, respectively, and are the same for all cutting systems.|
Unpublished data, University of Missouri.
Hay and Pasture -- Pure stands of lespedeza produce one to two tons of hay per acre. Harvest for hay at the early bloom stage, which normally occurs around August 1 (Table 2). This stage of maturity produces high quality forage and still allows time for the plants to produce seed (Table 2). Mixtures of a cool season grass and lespedeza can be used for hay or pasture and should yield two to three tons of dry matter per acre. Cool season grass-annual lespedeza mixtures produce less total annual yield but more and higher quality growth in mid- to late summer than grass plus nitrogen fertilizer. Grass/lespedeza mixtures managed for hay produces two cuttings by August 1. The first harvest should be taken by mid- to late May and should be primarily grass. Delaying this first cutting severely reduces the amount of lespedeza in the following cutting. The regrowth is primarily lespedeza and yields up to two tons of dry matter per acre by about August 1. Manage mixtures of grass/lespedeza for pasture by reducing grass competition in spring by grazing or clipping in May and avoiding nitrogen use in spring. Lespedeza pasture can be used by all types of livestock, but is especially valuable for cattle backgrounding operations. Grazing research on lespedeza generally shows high individual performance with limited total gain per acre, which reflects its low yield compared to other forage legumes.
|Table 2. Crude protein (CP) and total digestible nutrient (TDN) content of annual lespedeza hay at four stages of maturity (dry matter basis).1|
|Fresh, late vegetative||16.4||59|
|Hay, early bloom||15.5||55|
|Hay, full bloom||13.4||47|
|1From "Nutrient requirements of beef cattle." 1984. Sixth Edition.|
National Research Council.
Management For Natural Re-Seeding -- Annual lespedezas can produce significant amounts of seed that can lead to production of "volunteer" lespedeza in following years. To maximize seed production in annual lespedeza pastures, avoid excessive grazing pressure in September and October when the plants are flowering and setting seed. Lespedeza plants which have been grazed during summer are more prostrate in the fall and bear seed closer to the ground than ungrazed plants or lespedeza harvested for hay. This trait makes the seed less accessible to grazing livestock.
Lespedeza harvested as hay tends to be more erect than when grazed. Therefore, seed produced is more likely to be removed by grazing livestock, especially with the Korean types which bear seed on the ends of the shoots. Make hay harvests by mid-August and allow the fields to regrow, flower and set seed. Kobe (striate types) bear their seed all along the stem and have more seed on the lower parts of plants than Korean or Summit lespedezas.
Seed Production -- Seed production of both the annual species occurs in the late fall. Lespedeza is usually combined directly (without swathing) after the leaves are partially dry, but before extensive shattering has occurred. Drying of leaves may occur at maturity or after a killing frost.
Over a 4-year period at Lexington, per acre yields of cleaned (hulled) seed averaged 50 pounds for striate (range: 0 to 147 lb.) and 212 pounds for Korean (range: 0 to 411 lb., depending on variety). In comparable tests in Princeton, striate yielded 49 pounds per acre and Korean cultivars yielded from 103 to 448 pounds per acre. However, yields of up to 400 pounds per acre of either species are possible. Seed yields of the striate species, including Kobe, are usually lower than the Korean varieties in part because of damage caused by early frost.
Sericea lespedeza is naturally high in tannin, which is a component of some forages that can cause poor acceptance in ruminants. Although reduced-tannin varieties are available (Serala, AU Lotan, AU Donnelly) and have performed well in Alabama, there are no data on their performance for Kentucky. In general, performance of cattle grazing sericea in Kentucky and other states has been poor because of poor animal acceptance and due to its naturally high tannin content. In grass-sericea pastures, grazing animals tend to eat the grass first and avoid sericea. In these cases, sericea becomes overmature and cannot support animal gains because of low forage quality. Proper utilization of sericea in pastures usually depends on using a grazing system to force animals to graze sericea earlier when quality is higher. Alabama data indicate the use of a variety of sericea that is lower in tannin content results in improved animal gains compared to common sericea. However, be certain the variety is adapted to Kentucky before committing large areas to its use.
Sericea is useful for soil improvement, wildlife cover and erosion control on roadsides. Two varieties for this purpose are "Interstate", developed by the Alabama Experiment Station, and "Appalow", developed by the Quicksand Plant Introduction Station of the Soil Conservation Service in cooperation with the University of Kentucky.