Legumes offer many advantages when added to perennial or annual grass pastures.

Mississippi State University Extension Forage Specialist Rocky Lemus shared his experiences with adding legumes into a mix of summer annual forage crops during a recent webinar.

Of the species he mentioned, none cause bloat in cattle, and most are drought resistant, which is important when planting and grazing during the summer months, especially in the South.

“Yield and nutritive value of these forages are highly dependent on management,” explained Lemus.

Below is a list of legume options for summer annual pastures and some key considerations that he offered.

Alyce clover:

• Not a true clover but very leafy

• Biomass typically peaks in mid-June and early September

• Tolerates heavy grazing

• Seeding considerations:

  • Plant 15 to 20 pounds per acre and place seeds ¼- to ½- inch deep
  • Seed cost is $2.20 per pound


• Also known as blackeye peas, crowder peas, or southern peas

• Performs well in drought conditions

• Adapted to a wide range of soil types with low fertility

• Seeding considerations:

  • Drilled: Plant 40 to 60 pounds per acre
  • Broadcast: Spread 60 to 90 pounds per acre
  • Seed cost is 86 cents per pound


• Not as drought tolerant as other species

• Prefers well-drained soil with pH levels ranging from 5 to 7.5

• Seeding considerations:

  • Plant 15 to 20 pounds per acre
  • Seed cost is $2 per pound

Forage soybeans:

• Establishes quickly and grows to be 2- to 4-feet tall

• Requires fertile, well-drained soil

• Can withstand drought for a short period of time and competes well with mixed-grass stands

• Seeding considerations for broadcasting or drilling in narrow rows:

  • Plant 60 to 90 pounds per acre at a depth of ¾- to 1-inch
  • Prices begin at 62 cents per pound and climb to $2 per pound depending on the variety selected

Because a legume seems to perform well on paper, that does not mean the forage will thrive on your land or in your grazing program. Make full evaluations of your needs, expectations, perceived benefits, and current conditions before making a decision about supplementing annual grass pastures with legumes.

C.J. Weddle

C.J. Weddle is serving as the 2020 Hay & Forage Grower editorial intern. She currently attends Mississippi State University, majoring in agricultural education, leadership, and communications. She grew up on a farm in Vardaman, Miss., where her family raises sweet potatoes and soybeans.