Regeneration guidelines for forage legume genetic resources

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Contributors to this page: ILRI, Ethiopia (Jean Hanson); ICARDA, Syria (Ahmed Amri, Kenneth Street, Ali Shehadeh, Natalya Rukhkyan); GRCTPL, Australia (Richard Snowball); Bioversity International/ILRI, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (Alexandra Jorge); CIAT, Cali, Colombia (Daniel Debouck).

Before reading the regeneration details for this crop, read the general introduction that gives general guidelines to follow by clicking here.


Over 1500 species of legumes can be used as forage, although only about 60 species have been developed and widely used as forages. The wide range of species covers short-lived annuals to long-lived perennial trees and small herbaceous species to large woody species, adapted both to tropical and Mediterranean areas. With such a wide range of diversity, specific conditions and methods are required. These general guidelines are only indicative and specific information should be sought in the literature whenever possible.

Plastic house regeneration of pasture and forage legumes. (photo: ICARDA)

Choice of environment and planting season

Planting season

Preparation for regeneration

When to regenerate


Sesbania bispinosa seeds ready to
be scarified (photo: ILRI)

Medicago sativa seeds being scarified
under a magnifier glass (photo: ILRI)

Rhynchosia sublobata seeds being scarified
using a scalpel (photo: ILRI)

Regeneration fields for forage legumes in Soddo, Ethiopia (photo: ILRI)

Field selection and preparation

Select the environment and soil type best suited for the species. Information on adaptation of species can be found from the Tropical Forage ( and the FAO Grasslands Index ( websites.

Other precautions

Method of Regeneration

Planting layout, density and distance

Herbaceous legumes and shrubs at ILRI are usually regenerated in 5×5 m plots (photos: ILRI)

Fodder trees at ILRI are usually regenerated in 25 m rows due to their larger size (photos: ILRI)

Planting method

Direct sowing for large seeded species

Seedling transfer for accessions with few seeds

Crop management

Trifolium growing in a winter greenhouse (Belarus genebank)
(photo: Bioversity/ILRI by kind permission of Belarus genebank)

Aphids infestation in forage legumes (photo: ILRI)

Lablab purpureus pods with pod borer insect damage (photo: ILRI)


Weed management



Common pest and diseases

Forage legumes are susceptible to a wide range of virus and fungal diseases.

For updated and detailed information about pests and diseases on forage legumes see the STOGs section in this website.

Pest and disease control


acacia suaveolens 7199 pod (2).jpg

Dehiscent pod of Acacia suaveolens (photo: ILRI)

Looking for mature seeds to harvest (photo: ILRI)

Post-harvest management

For more detailed information see the forage legume sample processing, viability and storage sections in this website.

Monitoring accession identity

Comparisons with previous passport or morphological data

Documentation of information during regeneration

The following information should be collected during regeneration:

References and further reading

Click here for a list of selected references on breeding systems in forage legume species.

Bray RA. 1983. Strategies for gene maintenance. In: McIvor JG, Bray RA, editors. Genetic Resources of Forage Plants. CSIRO, Melbourne, Australia. p157-168.

Dafni A, Firmage D. 2000. Pollen viability and longevity: practical, ecological and evolutionary implications. Plant Systematics and Evolution 222, 113–132.

Fairey DT, Hampton JG,  editors. 1997. Forage Seed Production volume I:Temperate Species. CABI International, Cambridge, UK.

FAO/IPGRI. 1994. Genebank standards. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Rome and International Plant Genetic Resources Institute, Rome. Available in English, Spanish, French and Arabic.

Friedman J, Barrett SCH, 2009. Wind of change: new insights on the ecology and evolution of pollination and mating in wind-pollinated plants. Annals of Botany 103, 1515-1527.

Hacker B, Hanson J. 1999. Crop growth and development: reproduction. In: Loch DS, Ferguson J, editors. Forage Seed Production vol II Tropical and Subtropical Species. CABI International, Cambridge, UK. pp. 93-111.

Humphreys LR, Riveros F. 1986. Tropical Pasture Seed Production. FAO Plant Production and Protection Paper 8, FAO, Rome, Italy. 203pp.

ISTA. 2008. International Rules for Seed Testing. International Seed Testing Association. ISTA secretariat, CH-Switzerland. Available from:

Loch DS, Ferguson J, editors. 1999. Forage Seed Production vol 2. Tropical and Subtropical Species. CABI Publishing, UK.

Neal PR, Anderson GJ. 2004. Does the `Old Bag’ make a good `Wind Bag’?: Comparison of four fabrics commonly used as exclusion bags in studies of pollination and reproductive biology. Annals of Botany 93, 603-607.

Thormann I, Metz T, Engels JMM. 2004. The Species Compendium (release 1.0; December 2004). [online] Available from: Date accessed 17 Jan 2011.

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The Genebanks

The 11 CGIAR genebanks currently conserve 730,000 of cereals and grain legumes, forage crops, tree species, root and tuber crops, bananas and crop wild relatives.