Effect of competition on legume persistence

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

6 Scopus citations


Alfalfa and red clover are the most competitive legumes while birdsfoot trefoil is among the least competitive. Legumes differ in competitiveness. Important features include seedling vigor, growth habit, and rooting characteristics. Rapid regrowth following defoliation also provides a competitive advantage for species such as alfalfa. Defoliation interacts with growth habit in modifying competitiveness. Less frequent defoliation allows grasses to shade legumes, which favors upright legumes such as alfalfa. In most instances, competition occurs between legumes and non-legumes, particularly with grasses, although legume-legume competition may also occur. Most legumes have prominent taproots which allow them to utilize soil water at a greater depth than grasses. Legume competition with non-legumes first occurs during establishment. Enhancement of traits affecting competitiveness through breeding would increase legume persistence. Legume species and varieties vary in their potential to fix N2, but it is unknown whether legume differences in N2 fixation provide any competitive advantage since legumes also freely utilize soil N.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationPersistence of Forage Legumes
Number of pages8
ISBN (Electronic)9780891182450
ISBN (Print)9780891180982
StatePublished - Nov 2 2015

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 1989 by the American Society of Agronomy, Inc. Crop Science Society of America, Inc. Soil Science Society of America, Inc.


  • Alfalfa
  • Growth habit
  • Legume persistence
  • Legume-legume competition
  • Light
  • Nutrients
  • Red clover
  • Rooting
  • Seedling vigor
  • Water


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