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Bio‐agronomic characterization and implications on the potential use as forage of Bituminaria bituminosa and B. morisiana accessions

Melis, R. A. M., Franca, A., Re, G. A., Porqueddu, C.
Grass and forage science 2018 v.73 no.2 pp. 284-296
Bituminaria bituminosa, Mediterranean climate, agronomic traits, cluster analysis, field experimentation, flowering, forage, forage legumes, forage production, germplasm, grasslands, rainfed farming, seed yield, Italy, Sardinia
Perennial forage legumes may be pivotal for improving the sustainability of Mediterranean rainfed farming systems. This study summarizes the outcomes of a study aimed at characterizing morphological and agronomic traits of new germplasm of Bituminaria bituminosa and B. morisiana in Mediterranean environments. Five B. morisiana and three B. bituminosa native populations were evaluated in a small‐plot field experiment in Sardinia (Italy) and compared with seven Spanish accessions of B. bituminosa. The two Bituminaria species differed greatly in morphological traits and the beginning of the flowering stage, and remarkable variations between species were found for forage production and its seasonal distribution, seed yield and persistence. Average cumulative dry‐matter yield was higher in B. bituminosa than in B. morisiana (+7.6%; 297 vs. 276 g per plant). Average 3‐year seed production varied greatly between accessions (from 0.3 to 141 g per plant). Differences for these traits were also found between Sardinian and Spanish germplasm of B. bituminosa. Four clusters were generated by K‐means clustering. Accessions included in cluster III exhibited a positive combination of favourable forage production, high seed yield and satisfactory persistence. Nonetheless, the cluster analysis did not highlight a sharp discrimination between Bituminaria species. The overall results revealed the potential role of Sardinian accessions of B. bituminosa and B. morisiana in extending the forage season and for increased resilience of grasslands in Sardinia and other Mediterranean regions under rainfed conditions.