What is Sunhemp?

What is Sunhemp?

Sunhemp (Crotalaria juncea), from the legume family, has been grown in Europe for several years. It produces up to 6.5 tons of biomass per hectare and, thanks to its symbiosis with rhizobia, serves as a natural nitrogen fertilizer. Nodule bacteria bind atmospheric nitrogen and convert it into a form accessible to plants.

After embedding, the nitrogen thus obtained is used by subsequent crops and greatly reduces fertilization rates and associated costs. In order to ensure optimal symbiosis from the outset, Feldzaaten Freudenberger inoculates the seed with specially selected strains of rhizobia. Thus, symbiosis begins immediately after root formation – a huge advantage over unvaccinated seed.


Sunhemp (Crotalaria juncea)
Sunhemp (Crotalaria juncea)

Sowing density:  17 kg/ha Sowing
time:  May-end of August
Sowing depth:  1-2 cm
Row spacing:  20-40 cm
Fertilizer:  60-80 kg N / ha – mandatory for catch crop (also in organic form)
packaging:  25 kg

Benefits for Sunhemp:

  • fast-growing catch crop
  • fast biomass production
  • active nitrogen formation within 60 days
  • inhibits the development of nematodes
  • promotes soil health
  • drought tolerance
  • deep root penetration
  • completely freezes when the soil freezes

Sunhemp, an annual bast crop commonly grown in the tropics for fiber production, has also proven to be an ideal cover crop.

Researcher Hawala Schumacher, an employee of the Natural Resources Conservation Service of the US Department of Agriculture, talks about this in his article on the portal of the US Department of Agriculture.

“The use of cover crops in northern latitudes is a problem due to the shorter growing seasons. However, the problems are just as significant in the far southern United States.

The lower Rio Grande Valley has a hot and humid climate, frosts are very rare, so there is strong pressure from weeds and harmful insects. At the same time, the potential benefits from cover crops can be significant in terms of improving soil conditions, controlling weeds, and interrupting the breeding cycle of harmful insects. Cover plants increase soil moisture and reduce the effects of wind and water erosion.

In 2017, the US Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) awarded a $ 785,000 conservation innovation grant to test various cover crops in the field to determine the best species for farmers in the region.

In the Subtropical Soil Conservation Initiative, scientists work with local farmers to field-test a wide range of cover crops, including results on biomass, pest and beneficial insect impacts, soil quality, and subsequent commercial yield.

The best crop so far has shown itself to be Sunhemp, a powerful plant from India that grows up to 26 meters in height and produces over 2,000 kilograms of biomass per acre even during the sweltering summer in South Texas. The stubble is successfully destroyed by rolling, which is very important in a region where frost cannot be relied upon to harvest the cover crop before the main harvest.

In addition to soil health, growing Sunhemp for fiber could benefit local and rather poor Hispanic communities: there are 3,826 Hispanic farms in the Lower Rio Grande region, many of which are already involved in the project.

Through the program, the NRCS funds the development of innovative tools and technologies that help farmers improve their lives and address critical natural resource challenges. ”


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