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Burgundy bean
(Macroptilium bracteatum)


  • summer-growing legume
  • short-lived perennial giving 2–3 year’s growth
  • to restore fertility in cropping land
  • high quality grazing

Continuous cropping has depleted the fertility of much arable land and farmers are seeking a restoration phase based on legumes. Temperate legumes such as medics are used in subtropical areas receiving winter rainfall but there have been few summer-growing species that are not annuals.

Old varieties of lablab are high yielding but rarely persist well into a second year. Butterfly pea seems better adapted to the warmer regions on northern Australia, including the Central Highlands.

Burgundy bean is a new legume selected for the heavier soils of cropping lands of southern Queensland and northern New South Wales. It grows well on black cracking clays and red clay loams.

It has been selected for its tolerance of the cooler conditions of the region, its persistence under grazing for 2-3 years, its palatability and high feed quality and its large seeds to ensure rapid establishment. However, seed drop is markedly reduced in dry summers

Two cultivars have been registered (Cadarga and Juanita). Cardarga has an erect form and is consistently high yielding, but it can be affected by bean mosaic virus in wet years. Juanita is more decumbent; although slightly less productive, it does not appear to be affected by the mosaic virus. Blends of both varieties may be marketed under a brand name by the seed company holding marketing rights.

Despite the large seed, burgundy bean should be sown into a full seedbed as establishment is poor without soil disturbance. Germination is rapid and the seedlings grow quickly to get ahead of most sown grasses. However, massive germination of liverseed grass (Urochloa panicoides) will smother the beans so some weed control is essential.

Burgundy bean is readily eaten and can produce liveweight gains of up to 1 kg/day. It rarely lasts more than 4 years under grazing. Although there is strong seedling regeneration each year over a short period, most of the seed is soft. Because of this low proportion of hard seed, burgundy bean is unlikely to become a serious weed of subsequent crops. Any bean seedlings in crops of wheat or sorghum can be controlled with proprietary herbicides; but it should not be followed by sunflowers or chickpeas because the choice of in-crop herbicides is limited.

Other legumes for short-term forage legume rotations include butterfly pea (for northern Australia) and perennial lablab (for central and southern Queensland).


Creator: Ian Partridge
Date created: 09 Dec 2000  Revised: 15 Jan 2003

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