Illinois bundleflower: a perennial multiple purpose third crop for Iowa

Project Overview

Project Type: Graduate Student
Funds awarded in 2005: $9,962.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2007
Grant Recipient: Iowa State University
Region: North Central
State: Iowa
Graduate Student:
Faculty Advisor:
Dr. E. Charles Brummer
University of California - Davis

Annual Reports


  • Agronomic: general hay and forage crops, grass (misc. perennial), hay
  • Additional Plants: native plants


  • Animal Production: feed/forage
  • Crop Production: intercropping, no-till
  • Education and Training: demonstration, on-farm/ranch research
  • Farm Business Management: new enterprise development
  • Pest Management: weed ecology
  • Production Systems: integrated crop and livestock systems, permaculture

    Proposal abstract:

    The corn-soybean serial monoculture systems in the North Central US are thought to have negative environmental impacts including erosion, water pollution, and hypoxia in the Gulf of Mexico. Farmers are looking for alternative cropping systems that increase profitability while limiting negative environmental consequences and supporting rural communities. Perennial crops reduce erosion and have efficient nutrient cycling, resulting in less leaching. Illinois bundleflower (Desmanthus illinoensis), a native perennial legume, has the potential to become an alternative forage and grain crop in the North Central US. The goal of this project is to generate and disseminate knowledge on the feasibility of growing this third crop in Iowa. Experimental plots of Illinois bundleflower in monoculture and mixtures with cool and warm season grasses (switchgrass, eastern gamagrass, orchardgrass and intermediate wheatgrass) were established in April 2003 at two Iowa State University research farms. Forage productivity and quality, and seed yield will be measured between 2004 and 2006. Demonstration plots will be established in spring 2005 on farmers’ fields. Productivity results will be presented on a field day, an extension meeting, a national congress and a scientific paper and popular press. An end-of-project producer workshop will help Iowa farmers incorporate this third crop in their systems. Evaluation of this project will be assessed by the field day and producer workshop. In the long term this project will contribute to the diversification and sustainability of the North Central US farming systems.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    Expected Project Outcomes

    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.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.