Background: Sainfoin (Onobrychis viciifolia Scop.) is a forage legume found in temperate areas but is less widespread in Mediterranean environments. Compared with other perennial legumes, it has the advantage of containing condensed tannins (CT) that can be important for their implications on ruminant nutrition and health. Data on nitrogen (N) fixation by sainfoin in the literature originate from very different environments and only a few field data are available, so it is important to improve knowledge on the N fixation potential of this species, particularly under a Mediterranean climate. Here the accumulation pattern of polyphenolic compounds (total, non-tannic polyphenols and CT) and the N fixation potential of sainfoin were studied in order to contribute to its valorisation for sustainable farming management in Mediterranean environments.
Results: CT concentrations were always in the range considered beneficial for animals, not exceeding 50 g delphinidin equivalent kg⁻¹ dry matter (DM). The regression of aerial fixed N on aerial DM showed a relationship of 22 kg fixed N t⁻¹ aerial DM in a Mediterranean environment.
Conclusion: A wider exploitation of sainfoin is suggested for production under rain-fed conditions, thus enlarging the limited set of available perennial legumes suitable for Mediterranean environments.
Keywords: atmospheric nitrogen; fixed nitrogen; phenological phases; polyphenols; sainfoin.
© 2013 Society of Chemical Industry.