Fenugreek Provides Multi-Purpose Potential in Wyoming
Fenugreek is a valuable specialty crop in the family of legume, which is used both as an herb and as a spice. Recent studies have shown that consumption of fenugreek can decrease cholesterol levels in the liver and blood plasma and reduce blood sugar levels, thus decreasing diabetes incidence. Fenugreek has been reported to be a good breast milk stimulator. Also, fenugreek has potential to be used as animal feed. As a legume, fenugreek fixes a good amount of nitrogen to soils. Unfortunately, there is no known information available on whether this important specialty crop will grow to maturity in the Central High Plains of Wyoming.
Recently a study was initiated in the Department of Plant Sciences in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources to evaluate some promising genotypes or varieties of fenugreek in two varying Wyoming environments for phenotypic adaptability and stability for growth, seed yield and forage quality. Seeds of 13 genotypes or varieties were sown in replicated experiments during the late spring of 2010, 2011 and 2012 at two locations: the James C. Hageman Research and Extension Center near Lingle, in both irrigated and dryland settings, and the Laramie Research and Extension Center, in an irrigated environment. The seeding rate was 25 pounds pure live seed (PLS) per acre. For forage yield, plots were mechanically harvested from August to September in 2010, 2011 and 2012. The seeds were harvested using a combine in October 2010, 2011 and 2012.
Forage dry matter data showed promising and interesting results for some of the genotypes.
In Lingle under irrigated conditions, the range of dry matter yield was 950 to 9,500 pounds per acre, while in dryland conditions, the range for dry matter yield was 260 to 2,100 pounds per acre. Forage dry matter yield variations were also observed in Laramie under irrigated conditions, with the highest yield 2,700 pounds per acre.
Similarly, large variations were also observed for seed production under irrigation, which ranged from 730 to 2,000 pounds per acre, and dryland conditions, which ranged from 50 to 350 pounds per acre, in Lingle and under irrigated conditions in Laramie, which ranged from 20 to 1,200 pounds per acre. The highest seed yield of 2,000 pounds per acre was obtained under irrigation in Lingle.
Forage quality was in the acceptable range at both locations. For example, the range of crude protein was 14 to 20 percent.
It is expected from this study that selection of well-adapted, high-performing fenugreek genotypes may result in development of cultivars that will be specifically suitable for Wyoming and neighboring states. Numerous health conscious consumers of fenugreek greens and seed could benefit from local production delivered into southeast Wyoming, Colorado’s Front Range market and possibly beyond.
Perhaps a larger market, however, is forage stock feed as fenugreek cut for hay may substitute alfalfa for those looking for a one-year rotational forage crop.