Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services

Perennial Peanut Hay

Perennial peanut is a high-quality persistent tropical forage legume which can be grazed or fed to horses, dairy and beef cattle, hogs, goats, sheep and rabbits. It can be stored as dry hay or silage and is a substitute for alfalfa. Florigraze and Arbrook cultivars of perennial peanut, or rhizoma peanut, as it is sometimes called, have been selected in Florida for their high yield, quality, persistence, disease resistance, and drought tolerance.

Perennial peanut is well-adapted to dry, sandy soils, and has the potential to persist indefinitely. Perennial peanut is planted using rhizomes, or underground stems, dug from a nursery planting. It does not require nitrogen fertilizer, and once established, can be maintained with low level management. Hay yields in North Florida range from 3 to 5 tons per year for well-established stands. Quality and uses are so similar to that of alfalfa that perennial peanut has been coined "Florida's alfalfa."

Perennial peanut grows well in Florida, south Georgia and southern portions of the Gulf States. It requires no pesticides for control of insects or diseases nor does it require applied nitrogen as do traditional grass forages. These characteristics make perennial peanut an environmentally sound, low resource consuming crop that ranks it as an important component for sustainable agricultural systems.

Perennial peanut evolved under tropical conditions, however, it adapts well to subtropical or warm temperate climates. In the northern hemisphere, this includes locations below 31 degrees to 32 degrees latitude which have a longer warm growing season.

Perennial peanut grows best in full sun. Specific rainfall requirements have not been determined, however, it grows best in Florida when days are long, hot, and humid. Irrigation has proven beneficial during establishment in spring droughts.

Perennial peanut persists in a variety of well-drained soil types and does well in the deep sands of Florida. Rocky areas and high clay soil should be avoided if the objective is to produce for digging. In northern production regions, clay soils with excess moisture may freeze during prolonged periods with temperatures below 32 degrees F. Rhizomes located in the zone of frozen soil will be killed. Due to this and the slow spread of rhizomes in clay soils, the selection of a well drained soil for planting is particularly important in northern production regions. Recent experience has demonstrated that perennial peanut grows well in reclaimed phosphatic, highly colloidal clay soil in South Central Florida.

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