Ecological, Sustainable and Economic Impact of Legume-based Pasture Systems for Limited-Resource Small Ruminant Farmers in the Virgin Islands

Project Overview

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 1999: $110,410.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2003
Region: Southern
State: U.S. Virgin Islands
Principal Investigator:
Elide Valencia
University of the Virgin Islands

Annual Reports


  • Agronomic: grass (misc. perennial), hay
  • Animals: goats, sheep


  • Animal Production: grazing - continuous, pasture renovation, grazing - rotational, stockpiled forages, feed/forage
  • Crop Production: conservation tillage
  • Education and Training: demonstration, extension, farmer to farmer, on-farm/ranch research, technical assistance
  • Farm Business Management: budgets/cost and returns, feasibility study
  • Pest Management: mating disruption, weed ecology
  • Soil Management: soil analysis
  • Sustainable Communities: sustainability measures


    Inter-planting improved guineagrass (Panicum maximum Jacq.) cv. Mombasa-lablab (Lablab purpureus; a semi-annual legume) provided high quality browse forage as early as 60-d on rehabilitated pasture and reduced infestation of native hurricanegrass by 90%. Weanling goats on Mombasa grass reached marketable weight (>30 kg) 4-mo earlier than those grazed on native or naturalized guineagrass. During the dry season, lablab provided two-fold increases in herbage yield compared to cowpea and forage soybean, and growing lambs had three-fold higher animal weight gains on lablab-local guineagrass grazing than those supplemented with lablab in a cut-and carry systems. On-farm research provided valuable data for publication of tech-pacs on pasture establishment, management, and also provided an alternative legume to enhance weight gains in critical stages of small ruminant growth. The seeding of lablab when establishing new pastures has now been adopted by farmers and expanded to neighboring islands.

    Project objectives:

    1. The overall goal of the project was a multi-disciplinary effort to develop profitable, environmentally safe, and sustainable small ruminant production in the Caribbean. Initial studies assessed means of introducing legumes in degraded pastures and or rehabilitating with improved grasses (e.g., Mombasa).

    2. Compare pasture and small ruminant performance on N-fertilized guineagrass, no-till seeded legume hedgerows, and pure guineagrass swards.

    3. Compare pasture productivity and economic costs and returns on forage and goat production on no-till planting of legumes (25% of planted area) in native/or rehabilitating with improved pastures.

    4. Promote and facilitate adoption of technology of these legume-based systems by forage and livestock producers.

    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.