Aeschynomene americana, or common aeschynomene, is a true annual that flowers and produces seed in the early fall. Plants usually die after seed has matured. Common aeschynomene has a high nutritive value and is very palatable to cattle and deer. It has been used in the cattle industry and for wildlife plantings for many years (Note: Aeschynomene evenia is a short-lived perennial that is not recommended for food plots).
Aeschynomene is a great early-season option for Taylor County food plots because it grows best on moist, fertile soils.
It is more tolerant of extremely wet conditions than of drought, although soil drainage is needed especially during establishment. Although well-established plants can withstand short periods of flooding, young plants (seedlings) can be injured or killed if plants are completely submerged in water.
Liming and Fertilization
If the soil pH is below 5.0, the site should be limed to raise the pH to between 5.5 and 6.0. Plant nutrients should be applied after a successful stand of seedlings have emerged. After the seedlings are 2 weeks old, fertilize with 30 lbs/Acre of Phosphorus and 60 lbs/Acre of Potassium if the soil tests low in these nutrients.
Seeding Rate and Date
Seed of common aeschynomene may be bought dehulled (naked) or non-hulled. There is approximately twice as much seed per pound of dehulled seed compared to non-hulled seed. Dehulled seed may be planted at 5 to 8 lbs/Acre. If seeded with a precision planter on a clean-tilled seedbed, the lower seeding rate may be used. Broadcast seeding requires the higher seeding rate, especially when seed are broadcast on established pasture sod. Non-hulled seed should be planted at the rate of 20 to 25 lbs/Acre. See local Seed Sources.
Seeding date can be critical to successful establishment. Aeschynomene is usually planted in June when the summer rains start. It has been planted successfully in April and May when spring rainfall has been above normal. Try to plant to establish new stands or lightly disk old stands to encourage seed germination when the chances are greatest for continued good soil moisture. Growth failure of aeschynomene is mainly caused by inadequate soil moisture at or shortly after seeding.
The greatest chance for successful establishment occurs when plantings are made in June after a spring when rainfall has been greater than normal and the soil profile is saturated. When seedings are made prior to June 1 or the start of the summer rainy period, use non-hulled seed at the rate of 25 lbs/Acre. Immediate germination will range from 5 to 10%. If these seedlings die due to drought, there will be plenty of seed to germinate when the next rain comes. When planting after June 1, use dehulled seed which may have an immediate germination as high as 90 to 95%. Use 5 lbs/Acre on a clean-tilled seedbed and 8 lbs/Acre on sod.
Inoculate seed with the proper bacteria (cowpea group) when aeschynomene is seeded into new land or into fields where a summer legume has never been grown. Inoculation of the seed is not required if aeschynomene or some other summer legume that requires the cowpea inoculant has been grown in the area to be planted.
Aeschynomene provides much needed protein in July, August and September when perennial grasses are usually deficient in protein. Protein in leaves and young stems of aeschynomene will exceed 20%. This is important for a healthy and well-nourished deer population.
The information here was modified from the University of Florida IFAS Electronic Data Information Source (EDIS) publication. The original publication can be found here.
Aeschynomene growing with Limpograss
For more information about early-season game food plots, contact Taylor County Extension Director, Clay Olson, at (850) 838-3508.