Legumes can play a significant role in grazing systems by adding nitrogen to the soil and boosting the protein content and palatability of the forage. Birdsfoot Trefoil is a legume that is not as common as many clover species but can play a specialized role in Wisconsin pastures.
The high price of nitrogen fertilizer has increased interest in planting a legume crop after wheat or canning crop harvest as a green manure to provide some nitrogen credits for next year’s crop. This practice can provide some nitrogen and organic matter as well as increase ground cover to reduce erosion from fields. However, it may not be cost effective.
Sainfoin (Onobrychis vicifolia) is deep-rooted and very drought-resistant. It yields best on high pH, deep, well-drained soils, and will not withstand wet soils or high water tables. It is not as winterhardy as some cultivars of alfalfa. Sainfoin is short-lived where root and crown rots are a problem.