Sesbania rostrata

Scientific name

Sesbania rostrata Bremek. & Oberm.


Sesbania hirticalyx Cronquist
Sesbania pachycarpa sensu auct.


Fabaceae (also Papilionaceae)/ Robinieae

Common names

English: rostrate sesbania, sesbania
India: jantar, manila agathi, new dhaincha
Nepal: girkhe dhaichaa
Thai: sano african

Morphological description

Erect, soft, woody annual or short-lived perennial, 1 - 3 m tall, with pithy sparsely pilose stems to 15 mm thick (more mature stems glabrescent); root primordia protruding up to 3 mm in 3 or 4 vertical rows up the stem.  Leaves pinnate with 12 - 22 pairs of leaflets to 30 mm long and 6 mm wide, glabrous above, usually sparsely pilose on the margins and the midrib beneath; rachis sparsely pilose, to 19 cm long; stipules lanceolate, reflexed, pilose, up to 10 mm long.  Racemes comprising 3 - 15 flowers on a pilose rachis 1 - 5 cm long (including peduncle 4 - 15 mm); bracts and bracteoles linear-lanceolate, pilose; pedicels up to 13 mm long, sparsely piloseCalyx sparsely pilose; receptacle 1 mm, calyx tube 4.5 mm long; teeth markedly acuminate, with narrow sometimes almost filiform tips 1 - 2 mm long.  Corolla yellow; blade of standard 11 - 12 mm long and 11 mm wide; blade of wing 11 - 12 mm long, 3 - 4 mm wide, toothed at the base; blade of keel 10 - 12 mm long, 3 - 4 mm wide at the base and 7 - 9 mm near the apex; basal tooth short.  Filament sheath 11 - 13 mm, free parts 4 - 6 mm, anthers 1 mm long.  Ovary glabrous; style glabrous, 5 - 6 mm long.  Pod, curved 15 - 22 cm long, including a slender beak of 1.5 - 3.5 cm; septa 4.5 - 5.5 mm apart.  Seeds sub-cylindrical (3 - 3.5) x (2.5 - 3) x (2 - 2.5), light to dark brown, minutely dotted with violet; hilum 0.5 mm long; about 50,000 - 70,000 seeds/kg.


Africa: Botswana; Central African Republic; Chad; Democratic Republic of Congo (Zaire); Ethiopia (SW); Madagascar; Mali; Malawi; Mauritania; Namibia; Niger; Nigeria Sudan; Senegal; Tanzania; Zimbabwe.

Mostly found in wet and muddy places on flood plains, in seasonal swamps and around the margins of more permanent swamps into quite dry country.


Primarily used as green manure between rice crops, or as an intercrop in transplanted rice.  It can also be fed to livestock, and in some countries leaves are eaten by people.  Vigorous stands suppress weeds, reducing the need for herbicides in rice systems.  It shows potential as a trap crop for insect pests in soybean, and stems are suitable for firewood.

As a green manure, it is allowed to grow for 55 - 60 days from a mid-May sowing (N hemisphere), before incorporation into the soil.  Rice is transplanted 7 - 10 days after incorporation of S. rostrata.  Improvement in rice yield is equivalent to an application of 160 - 200 kg/ha N.


Soil requirements

Occurs naturally on periodically flooded or water-logged, deep clayey alluvial soils.  Adapted to poorly drained and flooded soils of at least moderate fertility, with pH 5.5 to slightly alkaline.   Can grow in more acid conditions (down to pH 4.3), but N fixation is less efficient.  Establishment on heavy clays can be difficult.  Tolerant of low to moderate salinity.  Seed germination percentage and seedling growth decline sequentially as salinity rises to 16 dS/m.



Occurs naturally in areas of 600 - 1000 mm rainfall, but only on periodically flooded or waterlogged soils.  Mature plants can grow in water 30 cm or more deep.  It can also be grown on freely drained, moist soil in cultivation.


Primarily a tropical plant, occurring between about 18º N and S, and from sea level - 1600 m ASL.  It grows best at temperatures above 25º C.


No data available

Reproductive development

S. rostrata is a short-day plant with a critical photoperiod of 12 - 12.5 hours.  This limits its use as a green manure since rapid vegetative growth is restricted to that part of the year with increasing daylengths.  If grown in the short-day period, it flowers early resulting in lesser vegetative growth and lower nitrogen fixation.  A later flowering type has been bred (see cultivars).


Plants ratoon following severe cut back, but should be allowed 6 - 8 weeks to recover before cutting again.



No data available



S. rostrata can be propagated from cutting or from seed, growing slowly in the first 30 days, but grows sufficiently by 50-60 days to be incorporated.  Plants established from cutting grow 2 to 2.5 times faster in the first 42 days than seeded plants.  Cuttings should be 30 cm long (15 cm is adequate but plants do not develop as quickly) at a planting density of 50 - 100/m2.  High levels of hard-seededness require scarification to achieve rapid germination.  This can be achieved by various means:

  • physical abrasion of the seedcoat,
  • hot water at 80° C for about 5 minutes or 100° C for 3 seconds
  • concentrated sulphuric acid for 15 minutes, followed by thorough washing with fresh water, and sowing immediately.

Inoculation of seed or cuttings in wet areas with Azorhizobium caulinodans ORS571 is necessary to achieve high levels of N fixation.   Seed is normally sown at 20 to 40 kg per ha between February and May (N hemisphere) for green manure and about 8 kg/ha from March to May for a seed crop.  If grown as an intercrop with rice, planting should be delayed 30 days to avoid excessive competition with the rice.


S. rostrata responds to lime in strongly acidic soils, and phosphorus (about 20 kg/ha P) in low fertility soils.  If inoculated with the correct strain of Azorhizobium caulinodans, it can fix large amounts of nitrogen (50 - 200 (- 300) kg/ha) often in a matter of only 6 - 8 weeks.

Compatibility (with other species)

If established as an intercrop in rice at the same time as the rice, it out-competes the crop, but is suppressed by the rice if sown 30 - 60 days after the crop.

Companion species


Grasses: rice (Oryza sativa), maize (Zea mays ).

Legumes: rice bean (Vigna umbellata), jointvetch (Aeschynomene afraspera).

Pests and diseases

Blister beetles (Coleoptera, Meloidae) attack S. rostrata when it is in flower, eating leaves and growing tips.  Green vegetable bug (Nezara viridula) reduces yields in seed crops through sucking developing pods.  Adults feed on the crop, but it is not a suitable for nymphal development, making it an ideal trap crop for this insect.  Pod borers also are damaging to seed crops.  A leaf roller, possibly lucerne leaf roller (Merophyas divulsana Lepidoptera, Tortricidae), has damaged growing tips in stands in the subtropics.
S. rostrata is susceptible to damping off caused by Pythium and Rhizoctonia, a Cercospora leafspot, and leaf mosaic virus.  Rootknot nematodes (Meloidogyne spp.) are damaging in better drained soils.  However, it can acts as a plant trap for the nematodes, Hirschmanniella oryzae and H. spinicaudata, that damage rice crops.

Ability to spread

S. rostrata is limited to small wet areas in its native environment.  No record of spread elsewhere.

Weed potential

No record of weediness, possibly because it is usually turned under before flowering when used as a green manure.

Feeding value

Nutritive value


Foliar CP levels are usually of the order of 30%, stems 7 - 12%, and whole plant 24%.  P levels have been measured at 0.2 - 0.3% in both leaf and stem, and Ca levels at 1 -2% in leaves and about 0.7% in stems.  NDF, ADF, hemicellulose, cellulose and lignin levels of 54.6, 39.2, 15.4, 30.5 and 8.7%, respectively, and IVDMD of 55.6% have been reported.


Readily eaten by sheep and goats, sometimes by camels, but not by cattle.


No record of toxicity.

Production potential

Dry matter

A good crop with 500,000 plants per hectare is capable of producing 3 - 5 (- 7) t/ha DM in 55 - 60 days.

Animal production


Goats (5 months, 9.0 kg live weight) fed S. rostrata leaves ate 259 g/d DM gained 38 g/day.  Leaf meal may also serve as a concentrate fed with poor quality feeds such as rice straw.


S. rostrata 2n = 12; (S. pachycarpa 2n = 14).  Germplasm collections are maintained at IRRI at Los Baños in the Philippines, and at ORSTOM, Dakar, Senegal.

Seed production

Seed can be produced when daylengths are shorter than 11 hrs.  During this period, it flowers in 30 to 35 days and bears seed 30 days later.  Recommendations for time of sowing for seed crops vary from March to May, to as late as an August sowing for a December harvest, in the northern hemisphere.  A plant spacing of 45 x 20 cm is used, and nipping of terminal buds carried out 2 months after sowing to encourage branching and improve seed yield.  Pods ripen over a long period, and are normally hand-harvested.  Morning harvest is preferable to avoid pod-shattering and seed loss.  Seed yields of 0.5 - 2 t/ha have been achieved.  Seed harvested during the rainy season is often of lower quality due to pod borer infestation.

Herbicide effects

No information available specifically for S. rostrata.  However, the morphologically and agronomically similar weed species, S. cannabina, can be controlled with pyrithiobac-sodium, trifloxysulfuron sodium, atrazine, S-metolachlor, fluroxypyr and carfentrazone-ethyl.


  • tolerant of waterlogging
  • fixes large amounts of nitrogen
  • easily vegetatively propagated



  • labour-intensive seed production
  • unpalatable to cattle
  • susceptibility to insect attack

Other comments

Both root and stem nodules form as a result of infection by Azorhizobium caulinodans ORS 571 (= ATCC 43989 = CCUG 26647 = DSM 5975 = IFO (now NBRC) 14845 = LMG 6465) and fix atmospheric nitrogen.  The root nodules appear to form by root hair infection in a process intermediate between indeterminate and determinate types.  Stem nodules occur in rows at the sites of adventitious root primordia, the bacteria entering via fissures caused by erupting primordia.  Unlike the root nodules, the aeschynomenoid stem nodules contain functioning chloroplasts and are therefore capable of photosynthesis.

Selected references

Becker, M., J.K. Ladha, I. Watanebe, and J.C.G. Ottow (1988) Seeding vs. vegetative propagations of the stem-nodulating green manure Sesbania rostrata. Biology and Fertility of Soils 6, 279 - 181.
Becker, M., Ladha, J.K. and Ottow, J.C.G. (1990) Growth and nitrogen fixation of two stem- nodulating legumes and their effect as green manure on lowland rice. Soil Biology and Biochemistry 22, 1109 -1119.

Becker, M., Diekmann, K.H., Ladha, J.K., De Datta, S.K., and Ottow, J.C.G. (1991) Effect of NPK on growth and nitrogen fixation of Sesbania rostrata as a green manure for lowland rice (Oryza sativa L.). Plant and Soil 132, 149 - 158.

Del Barrio, A.N., Roxas, D.B., Lapitan, R.M, Momongan, V.G. and Furoc, R.E. (1988) Composition and in vitro digestibility of different sesbania varieties. Philippine Journal of Veterinary and Animal Science 19, 87 - 94.

Del Barrio, A.N., Roxas, D.B., RLapitan, .M., Momongan, V.G. and. Furoc. R.E (1988) Utilization of sesbania (Sesbania sp.) as ruminant feed. Philippine Journal of Veterinary and Animal Science 14, 121 - 122.

Dreyfus, B., G. Rinaudo, and Y. Dommergues (1985) Observations on the use of Sesbania rostrata as green manure in paddy fields. MIRCEN Journal of Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology 1, 111 - 122.

Du Puy, D. and Villiers, J.F. (2002). In 'The Leguminosae of Madagascar'. (Eds Du Puy, D.J., Labat, J.N., Rabevohitra, R., Villiers, J.F., Bosser, J. and Moat, J.) 750pp. (Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew: London.)

Evans, D. O., and Peter, P. R. (1987) Productivity of Sesbania species. Tropical Agriculture (Trinidad) 64, 193 - 200.

Giller, K.E. (2001) Nitrogen fixation in tropical cropping systems. CABI Publishing, Wallingford, UK. 423 pp ISBN 0 85199 417 2.

Gillett, J.B. (1963) Sesbania in Africa (excluding Madagascar) and southern Arabia. Kew Bulletin 17, 122.

Gillet, J.B., Polhill, R.M. and Verdourt, B. (1971). Flora of tropical East Africa. (Part 3): Leguminosae, sub-family Papilionoideae. Redhead, R.M. and Polhill, R.M. (eds.) Crown Agents.

Ipor, I.B. (1996) Sesbania rostrata Bremek. & Oberm.  In Faridah Hanum, I. and Maesen, L. J. G. van der (eds), Plant Resources of South-East Asia No 11. Auxiliary plants.  pp 240 - 242 (Backhuys Publishers, Leiden, The Netherlands).

Ikeda K, Kariya Y, Takano T, Enishi O, Shijimaya K, and Murai M (1997) Effect of sesbania silages (Sesbania cannabina Pers. and Sesbania rostrata) on the body weight gain and blood characteristics in Holstein steers. Grassland Science, 42, 353 - 359.

Ndoye, I., de Billy, F., Vasse, J., Dreyfus, B. and Truchet, G. (1994) Root nodulation of Sesbania rostrata. Journal of Bacteriology, 176, 1060 - 1068

Ndoye, I., Dreyfus, B. and Becker, M. (1997). Sesbania rostrata as green manure in lowland rice-farming systems of Casamance (Senegal) Tropical Agriculture (Trinidad). 73, 234 - 237.

Olsson, J. E., and Rolfe, B. G. (1985) Stem and root nodulation of the tropical legume Sesbania rostrata by Rhizobium strains ORS-571 and WE7. Journal of Plant Physiology, 121,199 - 210.

Saud, H.M., Norizan, T. and Shamsuddin, Z.H. (1993). Influence of Azorhizobium inoculation and fertilizer treatment on nodulation and growth of Sesbania rostrata on three tropical soils. Tenth Australian Nitrogen Fixation Conference, Brisbane, Australia. Book of Abstracts, p. 36.

Shahjalal, M.and Topps, J. H. (2000) Feeding Sesbania Leaves as a Sole Feed on Growth and Nutrient Utilization in Goats Asian-Australian Journal of Animal Science 13, 487 - 489

Visperas R M, Furoc R E, Morris R A, Vergara B S and Patena G. (1987) Flowering response of Sesbania rostrata to photoperiod. Philippine Journal of Crop Science 12, 147 - 150.

Whitbread, A.M., Chanphengsay, M., Linquist, B., Sengxua, P., Blair, G.J., Vongsouthi, S. and Phengsounanna, V. (1999) Sesbania rostrata as a green manure and phosphorus management for lowland rice production in Lao PDR.  ACIAR Proceedings No. 93. Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research, Canberra.