Kobe (Lespedeza striate) and Korean (Lespedeza stipulacea) lespedeza
were introduced into the U.S. from China, Japan, and Korea in the mid-1800s.
Both can be valuable, high-quality deer forage plants in mid to late summer.
Korean lespedeza is larger, coarser, and earlier maturing than Kobe. It
also has broader leaflets and larger bracts at the base of leaves. At
maturity, the leaves of Korean turn forward so the branch tips resemble
small cones, but the leaves of Kobe do not turn forward. The hairs on Korean
lespedeza stems point upward while those of Kobe point downward.
In Asian countries, native stands of these plants are sometimes grazed or harvested
for hay, but it is rarely planted. Interestingly, the plant seems to be even
more ideally suited to conditions in the southern U.S. than in its area of
origin. These warm season annual legumes germinate in spring, grow
throughout the summer, then make seed and die in autumn.
Korean lespedeza, of which there are several varieties, matures seed in
early fall and is best suited for the upper South and lower Midwest. Kobe
lespedeza (an improved variety of striate or common) is more disease
resistant, persists longer in autumn, and has been the preferred annual
lespedeza in the South.
Annual lespedezas can be used as an erosion control plant on bare,
eroded soil, or top sown on a controlled burn, wildfire, or firebreaks. It
grows surprisingly well on poor soils. They can be grown with many grasses
including fescue, orchardgrass, ryegrass, timothy, or bluegrass.
Planted alone, the broadcast rate is 25 to 35 lbs/acre or drill 15-25 lbs/acre in
February or March. Use hulled, scarified seed for late winter planting. In
a grass mixture, reduce rates to 25 lbs/acre broadcast or 15 lbs/acre
drilled. Seed can be covered with 1/4- to 1/2-inch of soil, but will often
become established without being covered if adequate moisture is present and
competition is dead or burned.
For zones where Kobe is adapted, a new improved variety called Marion is
now available. Marion is a good seed producer, good yielder, and more
resistant to diseases than the other annual lespedeza types.
Whatever annual variety is chosen (Kobe, Korean, or Marion), mix with a
perennial grass and hold back on the nitrogen. Apply 200 lbs of 10-10-10 per
acre at planting.
Lespedezas are slow starters but produce abundant forage
from May to October (Kobe and Marion) and June to October (Korean). All
three varieties produce seed in late summer and reseed readily if properly
managed. Forage yields of over 6,000 lbs per acre (dry matter) have been
reported for grass/annual lespedeza mixtures.
Watch the stand carefully in late spring and summer to insure that the
grass does not overtake or out compete the lespedeza. Mow as needed and do
not put any more nitrogen on the stand.
The cool season grass will persist through fall and winter and be heavily grazed by late winter when lespedeza seed will germinate and rejuvenate the stand. Apply 200 lbs per acre of 0-20-20 in March.
The real value of annual lespedezas to deer is in mid to late summer,
when it is highly productive and has crude protein levels of about 16
percent. It will tolerate fairly heavy deer grazing, but heavy grazing may
substantially reduce seed production. An added bonus is that the annual
lespedeza seed is an excellent quail food.
For reclamation projects, surface broadcasting on controlled burns, and
bare soil in logging operations, it is hard to beat the annual lespedezas
for ease of establishment, low maintenance, and low fertilizer and lime
Material from the Quality Deer Management Association.
Visit the web site at www.qdma.com