Integration of Forage Fenugreek into the Northeast Cropping System

2005 Annual Report for ONE04-018

Project Type: Partnership
Funds awarded in 2004: $9,634.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2006
Matching Non-Federal Funds: $6,426.00
Region: Northeast
State: Vermont
Project Leader:
Dr. Heather Darby
University of Vermont Extension

Integration of Forage Fenugreek into the Northeast Cropping System


A movement towards larger dairy farms in the Northeast has led to widespread adoption of monoculture silage corn production. Crops grown in monoculture can have negative impacts on the environment. Since there are so few annual forage crops that can be grown in the Northeast the introduction of alternative high yield and quality annual forage crops would lead to more extended rotations. A plausible alternative forage crop for the Northeast is fenugreek (Trigonella foenum-graecum L.). Fenugreek is an annual legume that is similar in quality to alfalfa. It is only cut once during the growing season and can be harvested for hay or silage. Fenugreek does not loose quality as it matures and therefore has a longer harvest window than corn silage or alfalfa. The objective of this study was to evaluate the performance of forage fenugreek in Vermont.

In 2004, five forage fenugreek varieties (Amber, F80, L3314, F70, and F86) were harvested 11 weeks after planting. At this time dry matter yield and quality (crude protein, in vitro digestibility, neutral and acid detergent fiber, digestible neutral detergent fiber, and mineral concentrations) were determined. Although yield and quality were similar to alfalfa we felt that a devestating bacterial disease actually lowered yields and quality.

Since 2004 was an abnormally wet year we were interested in testing the fenugreek for another year. In 2005, the same variety trial was conducted at Borderview farm in Alburg. However, the fenugreek was severely stunted by an unidentified factor. The experiment was conducted on ground that had been rented by Borderview farm. The landowner did not know of any potential chemicals that were applied by the previous renter. Therefore we will continue our fenugreek project in 2006 on owned land of Borderview farm.

Objectives/Performance Targets

The objective of this project is to develop an economically, agronomic and environmentally sound management system for forage fenugreek as a feasible rotation with corn silage in the Northeast. More specifically, this particular study will evaluate the yield and quality of available forage fenugreek varieties.


Materials and Methods

In 2004 and 2005, the variety trial was conducted at Borderview farm in Alburg, VT. The experimental design was a randomized complete block with four replicates. The treatments included five fenugreek varieties. Fenugreek seed was obtained from Surya Acharya at the Agriculture Food Canada Research Center in Lethbridge, Alberta.

Plot size was 3.04 x 6.08 m. Trials were seeded on May 17th in 2004 and on May 29th in 2005. Fenugreek was seeded at a rate of 17 kg ha-1 and to a depth of 2.50 cm. During the growing season, insect and disease problems were recorded. Disease severity and insect damage was evaluated on a 1 to 9 scale (where 1 = greatest severity and 9 = least severity). In 2004, Fenugreek was harvested 11 weeks after planting. At harvest time, the entire plot was mowed. The forage was raked onto a canvas tarp and weighed to determine yield. Approximately 1-kg of the fresh forage was subsampled and used to determine moisture and quality. Ground samples were analyzed for neutral detergent fiber (NDF), acid detergent fiber (ADF), in vitro true digestibility (IVTD), and crude protein (CP). Mixed model analysis was calculated using the mixed procedure of SAS (SAS Institute, 1999). Mean separation among varieties were obtained using the Least Significant Difference (LSD) procedure when significant F-tests (P<0.05) were observed.

In 2005, the trial was seeded and monitored for 4 weeks. At this time the trial was abandoned due to severly stunted plants.

Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes


In 2004, fenugreek germinated well and grew rapidly during the first 8 weeks after planting. Nine weeks after planting, a bacterial leaf spot was observed on all fenugreek varieties. The severity of leaf spot spread rapidly and in two weeks the plants were beginning to show signs of severe leaf necrosis. Disease severity was recorded at the time of harvest. The fenugreek was harvested at 11 weeks after planting because of the severe infestation of leaf spot. The level of disease severity was significantly different among varieties. Amber and F-80 appeared to have some tolerance to the leaf spot. Since these varieties were bred under arid conditions they have little resistance to diseases common to temperate climates. The 2004 growing season was the third wettest on record likely creating conditions conducive for disease.

The experiment was repeated in 2005. Two weeks after planting fenugreek germination was extremely low (10-30%) across all replicates and varieties. Fenugreek that did germinate grew very slow and was not at similar growth stages in relation to 2004. Fenugreek flowered after only 4 weeks of growth and reached an average height of 6 inches. The plants did not become lush and bushey as they did in 2004. Fenugreek reached a height of 3 feet in 2004 and did not flower until 9 weeks after planting. The trial was abandoned at this time and forage yields were not measured. To the best of our knowledge we felt that the fenugreek was stunted by some type of chemical residue in the soil. The land was newly rented ground and the past cropping history was not very well documented.

In 2004, the highest dry matter yields were obtained from Amber and F-80 varieties of fenugreek. Overall yields were similar to those reported by Acharya and Mir(2002). However, due to the severe infestation of leaf spot fenugreek was harvested earlier than the recommended time of 15 to 17 weeks after planting. We propose that higher yields could have been obtained if the forage was harvested at the recommended time. There were no significant quality differences, with the exception of IVTD, between varieties. NDF and ADF concentrations were higher and CP concentrations lower than those reported by Acharya and Mir (2002). Leaf necrosis associated with the leaf spot may have caused an increase in the proportion of fiber compared to nonstructural carbohydrates found in the leaves. There were significant IVTD differences between varieties. Digestibility was significantly lower for F-80 compared to the other varieties. Mir et al. (1997) reported similar IVTD levels for forage fenugreek.

The fenugreek variety trials will be repeated in 2006. Owned land with a well documented cropping history will be the site of the 2006 trials.


Sid Bosworth

[email protected]
University of Vermont Plant and Soil Science Dept.
Hills Building
Burlington, VT 05405
Office Phone: 8026560478
Roger Rainville

Borderview Farm
146 Line Road
Alburg, VT 05440
Office Phone: 8027963292
Surya Acharya

[email protected]
Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada
5403-1st Avenue South
Lethbridge, AB T1J 4-1
Office Phone: 4033172277