Assessing legumes indigenous to South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland for their pasture potential
In contrast to the exploration and use of southern African grass plant genetic resources over the past century, only a few indigenous legume species are currently used as forages, notwithstanding the vast untapped legume diversity available in southern Africa. The aim of this study was to assess legumes, indigenous to South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland and propose a list of species with pasture potential for further evaluation. Towards this end, legume species documented as being cultivated, grazed or browsed as well as plant collection data from the National Herbarium, South Africa, were used. The majority of cultivated, grazed or browsed species were recorded in the Central Bushveld, Lowveld and Mopane Bioregions, the Drakensberg Foothill and Coastal Region, Savanna Group and Northern Mistbelt leguminochoria and is largely enclosed by the Wolkberg Centre of Plant Endemism. The Phaseoleae tribe was found to contain the highest percentage of cultivated legume species. Legume species adapted to low soil phosphorus levels were identified, with 22 of these species previously noted for their pasture potential. It is suggested that the results of this study be used in the continued search for alternative indigenous legumes species for eventual integration into local and international pasture systems.
Keywords: Fabaceae, fodder crops, Leguminosae, phosphorus, plant genetic resources