Illinois bundleflower (Desmanthus illinoensis), a perennial native legume, has potential for forage and grain production and therefore to diversify and perennialize agroecosystems in the North Central US. In chemical-free plots Illinois bundleflower produced 958 kg/ha of forage with 17 % protein, averaged over two years, and 140 kg/ha of seed in 2004 and 550 kg/ha in 2005 with 41 % of protein. Mixtures with grasses produced more total forage, and sometimes reduced weeds, but did not increase seed production. In no-till demonstration plots Illinois bundleflower produced less than 750 kg/ha of forage. Weeds limited Illinois bundleflower productivity in demonstration plots.
The primary objective of this project is to assess the feasibility of growing Illinois bundleflower (Desmanthus illinoensis) as a third crop in Iowa. The project contributes to the long-term sustainability of the North Central US agriculture by combining research, education and extension activities towards the diversification and “perennialization” of local landscapes. The target population includes Iowa farmers, students, and the broad scientific community.
The project has three short-term outcomes: 1) scientific evidence of the feasibility of introducing a native legume species into a diverse perennial cropping system in Iowa; 2) specific information on the management of Illinois bundleflower as forage and/or grain crop in monoculture and in mixtures with cool and warm season grasses; and 3) increased awareness from local farmers of benefits of perennial third crops.
Results will lead to the intermediate-term outcomes of increasing the number of Iowa farmers diversifying their system with perennial third crops and increased scientific research on diverse perennial cropping systems in the North Central US. This project integrates research and extension to local farmers, which assures that the producer community will evaluate results; farmers’ feedback will be incorporated for future directions.