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(Lablab purpureus)


  • annual or shortlived perennial
  • large-seeded with vigorous establishment
  • forage crop
  • flowers susceptible to insect attack.

Lablab is a vigorous twining annual or short-lived perennial sown for forage.

As a forage crop, lablab has several advantages over cowpeas; it has a longer autumn growing season and may survive winter to provide spring grazing; it also has better resistance to Phytophthora root and stem rot and to attack by insects such as bean fly.

Lablab performs well in new ground, and its large seed can be planted in a rough seed-bed. It will grow on acid soils, and responds well to superphosphate. Seed is sown at 6 kg/ha in a mixture, or at 15-20 kg per ha as the sole legume.

Lablab produces a vigorous, erect seedling which later develops long trailing stems bearing large leaves; it produces great bulk and combines well with forage sorghums or maize. It may be used as a grazed fodder crop, for ensilage, green manuring, or as a pioneer pasture legume.

Lablab responds well to rotational or strip grazing, removing stock after the leaves have been eaten but before the stems have been grazed too low.

Cattle may take some time to acquire a taste for lablab, and there is often less bulk available than expected from the luxuriant growth; once the leaves have been eaten, there remains only a framework of stems.

Occasional cases of bloat have occurred when animals were introduced when hungry or when lablab was in an extremely lush condition.

The flowers and seed pods are very susceptible to insect attack, and little seed can be harvested without spraying with insecticide.

Cv. Rongai is a late-flowering variety with white flowers, seeding poorly in frosty areas; Rongai seeds are light brown coloured. Cv. Highworth flowers about 6 weeks earlier in central Queensland, and so can produce seed in districts with a shorter growing season. Highworth flowers are purple, producing pods borne above the leaf canopy which makes seed harvesting easier. Highworth seed is black.

Cv. Endurance is a newly released perennial cultivar of lablab that grows well in the second and even third year. It is thus more useful than the short-lived varieties for a legume phase in a cropping rotation. Endurance has the white-coloured flowers and brown-coloured seeds of its parent–Rongai. Seed size is smaller than that of the older varieties; in spite of this, at least 20 kg of seed should be sown per hectare. Low seed rates result in poor stands in the second year.

Other mildly perennial forage legumes for short-term legume phases include butterfly pea and burgundy bean.

Creator: Ian Partridge,
Date created: 14 April 1998  Revised: 15 January 2003

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