Warm Season Legumes as an Alternative Forage in the Northeast United States

Project Overview

Project Type: Graduate Student
Funds awarded in 2022: $14,999.00
Projected End Date: 08/01/2024
Grant Recipient: University of Vermont
Region: Northeast
State: Vermont
Graduate Student:
Faculty Advisor:
Eric BishopvonWettberg
University of Vermont


  • Agronomic: hay, other, peas (field, cowpeas)
  • Vegetables: beans


  • Animal Production: feed/forage
  • Crop Production: cover crops, crop rotation, intercropping

    Proposal abstract:

    With intensifying climate change, NE farmers are facing more frequent and damaging instances of drought. Long periods of summer heat can cause summer slump, the decline in growth of cool season species. In various animal production systems, from corn silage to pasture, the addition of warm season forage legumes has the potential to increase available nitrogen, soil moisture and overall productivity. Traditionally the primary legumes in northeastern pastures, which are essential for maintaining protein rich livestock diets and soil fertility, were all cool-season legumes, which are particularly prone to summer slump and failure in prolonged droughts.  There are two warm season legumes with underexplored potential in the northeast. Cowpea, a well-studied warm season forage legume, which has historically been cultivated in the southern US or tropical and sub-tropical environments globally, and mung bean, which has a very short phenology well adapted to short periods of intense heat. Utilizing mung bean and cowpea will increase the overall sustainability, yield, and decrease the need for fertilizers and soil amendments. By investigating these warm season legumes as an alternative to warm season grasses in hayfields and with potential expansion to vegetable and animal farming operations as a dual-purpose grain and hay crop, revenue opportunities well be expanded in addition to the positive ecological benefits. Warm season legumes intercropped in traditional corn silage systems will demonstrate their ecological benefits by decreasing inputs, while increasing overall soil health. Both practices will increase the resiliency of Vermont farm systems, while diversifying farm revenues and practices.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    The current proposal aims to help improve the sustainability and productivity of forage crops with the introduction of the warm season legumes, cowpea and mung bean, into Northeastern systems.


    1. Evaluate cowpea and mung bean performance in Vermont hay systems. Determine forage and grain quality when utilized for dual purposes, to diversify farm operations.
    2. Evaluate cowpea and mung bean performance as a cover crop in corn silage systems and silage quality when used with corn.
    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.