Lotononis bainesii


Scientific name

Synonyms

Amphinomia bainesii (Baker) A. Schreiber

Family/tribe

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

Common names

lotononis.

Morphological description

Herbaceous perennial with soft, slender, irregularly branched stolons, to 1.5 m long, with upright axillary shoots to 20 (rarely 60) cm under lenient defoliation, low, dense mat under intensive defoliation.  New growth finely hairy, although few hairs persisting, giving older foliage a glabrous, shiny appearance.  Leaves palmate, mostly trifoliolate (rarely with 4 or 5 leaflets), borne in groups of 3-5;  one or more leaves at each node large, the others much smaller;  leaflets thick, fleshy, mucilaginous when crushed, polymorphic (linear, ovate, obovate, and lanceolate on any one plant), the central leaflet to 6 cm long and/or 3 cm wide;  petioles 6-50 mm long, depending on defoliation pressure.  Strong main taproot with subsidiary taproots developing from the fibrous root system at stolon nodes.  Inflorescences a dense, globose or umbellate raceme (sometimes elongated), comprising 8-25 flowers;  peduncle to 15 cm long;  flowers yellow, 8-10 mm long, with corolla three times as long as calyx, standard and keel almost equal, the wings small and shorter.
Pod linear-oblong, 8-12 mm long, many-seeded, shattering at the base to release seed.  Seeds cream-yellow to light brown or magenta-rose, obovoid and asymmetrically heart-shaped, laterally compressed, 0.5 mm diameter;  3-4 million seeds per kg.

Distribution

Native to:
Africa:  Botswana; Mozambique (south); Namibia; South Africa (Gauteng, Limpopo, Mpumalanga, North-West).
Found in grassland and open woodland, in marshes and along river banks.

Introduced to:
Australia, China, Fiji, Kenya, Mauritius, and Zimbabwe.
Has become naturalised on roadsides and other disturbed lands in the subtropics.

Uses/applications

Mostly used as a grazed pasture in the subtropics, but has also produced high quality silage without the addition of molasses.  Useful standover in cool areas due to frost tolerance.  Although capable of forming a dense mat, its value for soil conservation is usually limited by its inconsistency of cover.

Ecology

Soil requirements

Occurs on gravelly, sandy, and loamy soils (rarely clays) and has been found to be adapted to a wide range of well-drained soils provided there is bare ground available.  Not well adapted to heavy cracking clays.  Grows well on infertile soils, with low levels of P and Mo, usually performing poorly on more fertile soils where competition is greater.  Performs best between pH 5 and 6, but grows from pH 4-8.5.  Tolerant of high available soil manganese and aluminium, but very low tolerance of salinity.

Moisture

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Rainfall at collection sites is mostly between about 300 and 700 mm/yr, but these rainfalls do not reflect the soil moisture status in the sites where it grows.  In cultivation, it has done well in areas with annual rainfall as low as 800 mm (or lower at altitude) and up to about 1,600 mm.  It is more drought -tolerant than Desmodium intortum but not as drought tolerant as Macroptilium atropurpureum .  If it does die during drought, stands recover from high levels of soil seed with the onset of moist conditions.  Best on well-drained soils but survives short periods of waterlogging and short-term flooding.

Temperature

Occurs naturally between 19 and 34ºS, and mostly at altitudes above 1,200 m asl.  Average annual temperatures at these sites ranges from about 15-18ºC, making this a truly subtropical species.  It has become naturalised in other countries in areas with average annual temperatures from 14-22ºC, usually receiving winter frosts.  Growth is minimal below 7.5ºC or when the weekly mean minimum temperature falls below 9ºC.  Very frost tolerant for a warm season plant, with mature growth surviving grass temperature down to -6.5ºC, and only killed at -9ºC.  Immature growth is killed at -1ºC.  In the subtropics, it makes its best growth in the spring and autumn, if moisture is adequate.

Light

Growth reduces rapidly with decreasing light, and ceases when radiation is less than 11,000 langleys for 28 days.

Reproductive development

Appears to be a long day plant, flowering mainly in the spring, with a secondary blooming in late summer.

Defoliation

Under lenient grazing, L. bainesii forms a deep sward, but the growth habit is altered to a low mat under heavier grazing pressure.  Disease becomes more prevalent in the humid microclimate that accompanies deep swards, which may ultimately lead to stand decline, particularly under higher rainfall conditions.  It is best kept fairly closely grazed to encourage the runners to root down and to reduce damage by disease.  Close grazing also reduces the adverse effect of shading from companion species.  A rotation of two weeks' grazing, four weeks' rest, or a system maintaining stands around 10 cm high has been found to be successful.  Lighter grazing during flowering and seeding in spring could increase the resultant development of a soil seed-bank, which is important for long-term persistence.  Seed banks often reach about 10,000 seeds/m² and up to 100,000 seeds/m².

Fire

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Tolerant of fire, recovering from crowns and soil seed.

Agronomy

Establishment

L. bainesii can be planted vegetatively or from seed.  Stolons can be planted on about a 1 m grid, or 15 cm square turfs on a 2.5 m x 2 m grid.  Seed should be sown at 0.5-1 kg/ha onto the surface of a fine, firm, clean seedbed, and rolled.  Many plantings have failed through seed being sown too deeply, so seed must not be placed more than 5-6 mm deep.  There is little post-harvest dormancy, although hand-harvested seed has a high hard-seed content, the darker seed having a higher content than lighter-coloured seed.  Hardseededness can be broken by treating seed with concentrated sulphuric acid (sp. gr. 1.8) for 20 minutes, followed by thorough washing and drying.  Heat treatments are not recommended as they can have a detrimental effect on such small seed.  Machine-harvested seed is adequately scarified during the harvest process.  Commercial seed of L. bainesii does not keep well under non-storage conditions, and can die within a year at room temperature and humidity.  The darker coloured hard seed retains viability longer than yellow or green seed.  Seed must be inoculated prior to sowing in a new area, as L. bainesii is highly specific in its requirement for root nodule bacteria, nodulating with Methylobacterium nodulans (formerly classified as a Bradyrhizobium sp.) CB 376.  Since the plant grows best at moderate temperatures and is fairly cold tolerant, it is often best sown later in the season, with the added advantage of lower evaporation rates and better soil moisture.  Seedling vigour is not good and the plant is rather slow to start.  Seedlings are small and initially slow growing.

Fertiliser

Grows well in infertile soils, but responds to low to moderate nutrient applications, particularly of phosphorus, but rarely calcium or molybdenum.  Almost as effective as Stylosanthes humilis in extracting P from low-fertility soils.

Compatibility (with other species)

Combines well with lower growing grasses and legumes, provided there is space between plants.  It generally does not grow well with sward forming grasses such as Paspalum notatum and Pennisetum clandestinum , although it has been moderately successful with Digitaria eriantha (pangola grass ) with appropriate grazing management.  Because of its unpredictable performance, it should be sown with other legumes in mixtures.  Does not compete well with weeds in the seedling stage, and is susceptible to shading by tall weeds in established stands.

Companion species

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Pests and diseases

Main fungal diseases are leaf spot (Cercospora sp.), Sclerotium rolfsii, Fusarium and Pythium root and stolon rots, flower blight (Botrytis sp.) and Rhizoctonia solani, which can contribute to the sudden collapse of a stand, particularly with a bulk of growth in warm, humid conditions.  Very susceptible to legume little-leaf disease caused by a phytoplasma carried by the common brown leafhopper (Orosius argentatus: Cicadellidae), more so if it is grazed lightly in late summer.  Bean yellow mosaic (poty-) virus spread by over 20 species of aphids can also be a problem.  Grazing helps in minimising most disease damage.  Attacked by the spiral (Helicotylenchus dihystera) and root-knot (Meloidogyne hapla) nematodes.
Main insect pests are heliothis (Helicoverpa armigera) and pod -sucking bugs such as Riptortus serripes (Alydidae) and Nezara viridula (Pentatomidae), which can be a problem in seed stands.  Resistant to amnemus weevil (Amnemus quadrituberculatus).
Commonly parasitised by dodder (Cuscuta sp.) in Australia.

Ability to spread

Spreads rapidly by seed and stolons if bare soil and suitable inoculum available.  Hence, extremely common on graded (scraped) roadsides in the subtropics, where it is spread by road maintenance equipment.  Also spread in the dung of cattle that ingest seed.

Weed potential

Not an aggressive species, despite ability to spread.

Feeding value

Nutritive value

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Comparable with lucerne (Medicago sativa ) in nutritive value.  Crude protein values range from about 9-26%, depending on time of year (flowering, etc.), age of regrowth and vigour of the plant, but is commonly in the high end of the range.  Levels can be improved through application of superphosphate.  IVDMD is about 60%.  Sodium content is higher than that in many tropical legumes.  Calcium levels in a well fertilised stand ranged from 0.6-0.7% of the DM, and P levels from 0.3-0.4%.

Palatability/acceptability

Extremely palatable, selected over many other tropical species.

Toxicity

No toxicity reported.  Can cause milk taint.

Production potential

Dry matter

DM yields of pure stands are of the order of 5-8 t/ha under good conditions, and 1-3 t/ha in association with grass .  Main growth is produced in the early and latter part of the season if moisture is adequate.

Animal production

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No information available.

Genetics/breeding

A tetraploid (2n = 36).  Initially reported to be cleistogamous (self-pollinated).  More recent research suggests that L. bainesii is highly allogamous , needing pollinators to produce seed, and that genotypes exist that are self-incompatible.  Crop management and harvesting techniques are crucial to successful seed production.

Seed production

Initially seed was hand harvested or collected with a mower.  Commercial seed is machine harvested by direct heading or mowing, windrowing and threshing.  Harvest procedures are fairly inefficient, usually yielding 25-55 kg/ha (and up to 110 kg/ha) of a possible 300-400 kg/ha in the standing crop.  Crops are harvested when about 80% of the crop has purple seed.

Herbicide effects

L. bainesii is tolerant of fluazifop-butyl and sethoxydim, but susceptible to acifluorfen, bentazone, 2,4-D and 2,4-DB.

Strengths

Limitations

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  • Susceptible to disease.
  • Ephemeral behaviour.
  • Low seed yields lead to expensive seed.
  • Small seed difficult to establish.
  • Initial seedling growth slow.
  • Not competitive.

Other comments

There is a natural fluctuation in frequency in pastures as stands succumb to disease, drought etc, and respond to better conditions such as cool moist conditions following a dry winter.

Selected references

Bogdan, A.V. (1977) Tropical Pasture and Fodder Plants (Grasses and Legumes). pp. 374-379. (Longman: London and New York).
Bryan, W.W. (1961) Lotononis bainesii Baker - a legume for sub-tropical pastures. Australian Journal of Experimental Agriculture and Animal Husbandry, 1, 4-10.
Bryan, W.W., Sharpe, J.P. and Haydock, K.P. (1971) Some factors affecting the growth of lotononis (Lotononis bainesii ). Australian Journal of Experimental Agriculture and Animal Husbandry, 11, 29-34.
Cameron, D.G. (1985) Tropical and subtropical pasture legumes 6. Lotononis (Lotononis bainesii ): A very useful but enigmatic legumeQueensland Agricultural Journal, 111, 69-72.
Jones, R.M. (1992) Lotononis bainesii Baker. In: 't Mannetje, L and Jones, R.M. (eds) Plant Resources of South-East Asia No 4. Forages. pp 154-155. (Pudoc Scientific Publishers, Wageningen, the Netherlands).
Pott, A. and Humphreys, L.R. (1983) Persistence and growth of Lotononis bainesii -Digitaria decumbens pastures. Journal of Agricultural Science Cambridge, 101, 1-7.
Real, D. and Altier, N. (2004) Breeding for disease resistance, forage and seed production in Lotononis bainesii Baker. New Zealand Journal of Agricultural Research, (in press).
Real, D., Rizza, M.D., Quesenberry, K.H. and Echenique, M. (2004) Reproductive and molecular evidence for allogamy in Lotononis bainesii Baker. Crop Science, 44, 394-400.
Van Wyk, B.E. (1991) A Synopsis of the Genus Lotononis (Fabaceae: Crotalarieae).Contributions from the Bolus Herbarium, 14. Rustica Press (PTY), Wynberg,Cape, South Africa.

Internet links

Cultivars

Cultivars

Country/date released

Details

'Beit' Zimbabwe (1972) No information available.
'INIA Glencoe' Uruguay (200 A bred variety, selected for resistance to Fusarium oxysporum crown and stolon rot, forage production in the subtropics (particularly on basaltic soils), and seed production.  Ninety crosses were generated from 581 emasculated inflorescences from 15 parent plants from 9 seed sources.  More resistant to Fusarium and higher seed yields than 'Miles'.
'Miles'
(CPI 16833)
Australia (1966) Selected for adaptation to poor soils in frosted, coastal and sub-coastal subtropics.  Largely the basis for the above details.

Promising accessions

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Promising accessions

Country

Details

None reported.