Underground Vetch (Vicia sativa ssp. amphicarpa): A Potential Pasture and Forage Legume for Dry Areas in West Asia
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A. M. Abd El Moneim, S. F. Elias. (9/6/2003). Underground Vetch (Vicia sativa ssp. amphicarpa): A Potential Pasture and Forage Legume for Dry Areas in West Asia. journal of agronomy and crop science, 189 (3), pp. 136-141.
Subterranean vetch [Vicia sativa ssp. amphicarpa (Dorth.) Aschers & Graebn.] is native to disturbed grasslands of the Mediterranean basin where heavy grazing, seasonal drought and erosion act as strong selection forces. It produces two pod types, above‐ground and 5 cm below the soil surface. Unlike subterranean clover (Trifolium subterranean L.), which buries its seeds after flowering above‐ground, subterranean vetch flowers and forms pods beneath the soil surface on underground stems. The aerial pods are produced after vegetative development ceases, while the underground pods are produced in ontogeny. The ability of this unusual vetch to survive in marginal areas with low rainfall (about 250 mm year−1) and to produce nutritious herbage and pods is an important characteristic which helps address rehabilitation of degraded rangelands and increase feed production for small ruminants. Research at the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA) during the 1988–93 growing seasons has assessed the herbage and seed productivity of underground vetch, its ability to grow in rotation with barley in marginal low‐rainfall areas, and its capacity to regenerate after heavy grazing. Drier conditions in 1989 favoured earlier underground flowering; the number of underground pods was higher than that of aerial pods. Grain yield of barley (var. Atlas) was around 2.0 t ha−1 after underground vetch and only 1.2 t ha−1 after barley. Grazing underground vetch had no effect on the productivity of the succeeding barley crop. The aerial and underground pods serve two distinct functions; aerial pods increase dissemination within suitable habitats, while underground pods increase the probability of plant survival under adverse conditions such as drought and heavy grazing. Underground vetch has two potential uses, namely the rehabilitation of marginal areas and production in rotation with barley.