Forage Legumes for Sustainable Cropping Systems

Craig C. Sheaffer, Philippe Seguin

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


Perennial and annual forage legumes are important components of sustainable cropping systems. Forage legumes are a primary source of forage to supply protein and fiber for livestock rations. They can be grazed, or stored as hay or silage. They contribute biologically fixed N and sustain the soil by reducing erosion and increasing soil organic matter levels. Diversifying cropping systems by including legumes can also reduce weed, insect, and disease incidence. Potential new uses of legumes include phytoremediation of N contaminated sites and capturing N lost from cropping systems. Legumes also have potential use as a feedstock for renewable energy production. Legumes have traditionally been used in rotation with grain crops but more recently have been shown promise as winter cover crops, intercrops with grain crops, and as living mulches. In this review, we discuss traditional and new roles of forage legumes in sustainable cropping systems with examples primarily chosen from northern USA and Canada.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)187-216
Number of pages30
JournalJournal of Crop Production
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - 2003

Bibliographical note

Copyright 2008 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • Biological N fixation
  • Cover crops
  • Forages
  • Intercropping
  • Living mulches
  • Rotations
  • Soil erosion


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