University of Tasmania

File(s) not publicly available

Prospects for three Dorycnium species as forage plants in agricultural systems: a review of their agronomic characteristics

journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-16, 19:42 authored by Bell, LW, Ryan, MH, Ewing, MA, Moore, GA, Peter Lane
Perennial legumes in the Dorycnium genus may have potential as forage plants that could reduce the seasonality of feed production and improve the sustainability of agricultural systems. However, Dorycnium species are not currently used commercially and little is known about their agronomic characteristics. This review covers the current knowledge on Dorycnium distribution, taxonomy and the agronomic performance of Dorycnium hirsutum, Dorycnium rectum and Dorycnium pentaphyllum, including adaptation, establishment, biomass production, water use, grazing management and nitrogen fixation, along with considerations for animal production. Dorycnium originate from temperate Europe and the Mediterranean basin and may be suitable for other regions with similar climatic conditions. Little data exist on the climatic and edaphic conditions to which Dorycnium species are best adapted. Current evidence suggests that D. hirsutum is widely adapted and might be suitable as a forage plant for acid soils in drier and frost-prone agricultural regions. D. hirsutum also persists well in low rainfall environments (down to 300 mm mean annual rainfall), can produce up to 21 t dry matter(DM)/ha in its first 3 years and, by utilising extra water compared with annual pastures, can reduce water leakage below the root zone, thereby slowing development of dryland salinity. The use of D. rectum would be limited to high rainfall or water-accumulating sites. D. pentaphyllum is a diverse species, yet available material appears to be less productive but has better forage quality than D. hirsutum. Currently, establishment reliability and/or forage digestibility are major limitations of the tested Dorycnium species that restrict their potential role and challenge the feasibility of their future use. Breeding may overcome or minimise these limitations and improved agronomic management might also enhance their usefulness. However, current collected genetic resources of Dorycnium are very limited and targeted collections would be needed to yield better adapted germplasm. Breeding to reduce the high levels of condensed tannins (>13% of DM) to moderate concentrations in Dorycnium might improve forage digestibility and could have positive implications for animal performance and health. Despite the poor digestibility of some Dorycnium species (<60% DM digestibility), these plants may still play a significant role as drought forage to provide feed when other forage sources are in limited supply. Further research is required to quantify the potential of Dorycnium species for commercial release and to determine how these plants should be best managed and integrated into livestock and mixed cropping systems. © CSIRO 2008.


Publication title

Australian Journal of Experimental Agriculture










Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture (TIA)


CSIRO Publishing

Place of publication


Repository Status

  • Restricted

Socio-economic Objectives

Sown pastures (excl. lucerne)

Usage metrics

    University Of Tasmania



    Ref. manager