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Crotolaria (Sunn Hemp)

Crotolaria (Crotolaria juncea) also commonly referred to as Sunn Hemp is a fast growing annual herbaceous leguminous plant (in the Fabaceae family) with a 5-7 week growth cycle reaching a height of 1.8 m. The species is believed to have originated from India and Pakistan but is now widely grown in many tropical and sub-tropical regions as fodder for livestock, a green manure and for its soil health improving properties. Among the crotolaria varieties currently available, Crescent Sun is especially notable for its higher biomass production and attendant benefits.

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Characteristic/ management Remarks
Growth habit Herbaceous. An annual plant with a 5-7 week growth cycle during which it can attain a height of 1.8 m. Has upright growth with some branching on the main stem.
Adaptation Fast growing; competitive against weeds; drought tolerant and can crown in areas with annual rains as low as 200 mm; heat tolerant; grows well on diverse soil types; able to nodulate with rhizobia strains present in most soils; has few pathogen and pest problems
Benefits Soil fertility and soil health improving properties

  • It produces 8-10 tons/ha of easy to decompose plant  biomass per growth cycle that contribute to build up of soil organic matter which improve soil physical and chemical properties
  • Can contribute up to 100 kg N/ha per growth cycle through biological nitrogen fixation mediated by its symbiotic relationship with soil rhizobium bacteria. This significantly increases yield of subsequent crops.
  • As a preplant cover crop or intercrop it protects the soil against erosion. Also suppresses weeds
  • Helps to conserve soil moisture
  • It suppresses plant-parasitic nematodes. Crotolaria root exudates and decomposing crotolaria soil biomass incorporated into the soil produce biochemicals that are nemiticidal or suppressive to plant-parasitic nematodes including root knot nematodes that restrict productivity of many food crops including vegetables and grain legumes such as common bean

Fodder for livestock

  • A single harvest yields 8-10 tons/ha of dry matter that could be utilized as fodder for livestock
  • Can be preserved and utilized in the form of hay or silage.
  • High in protein content (18-22%)
  • High palatability
Seed requirement and planting Seed rate: 15-20 kg/ha (spaced out drilled sowing at 30 cm in between rows) and 30-40 kg/ha (broadcast planting or zero tillage); Plant seeds in a finely prepared bed at 1-2 cm depth and cover lightly with soil. The soil should be sufficiently moist at the time of planting to maximize germination
Maturity period 5-7 weeks (days to harvest/cut or incorporation into soil after germination).
Utilization options
  • As green manure or to maximize nematode control, plough under the crotolaria vegetation just when it is starting to flower when its nitrogen content peaks.
  • As feed for livestock, it can be preserved and utilized in the form of hay or silage. Makes high quality hay and silage.
Fodder nutritional quality  Palatability High palatability. High digestibility. Has protein content of 18-22%.