Livestock contributes enormously in food and nutritional security apart from livelihood security to rural population all over the world. India has the largest number of livestock, representing over 17% of world population. Availability of forage legumes is essential for better animal health, production and increasing the nutritive value of forage-based rations, besides providing a source of biological nitrogen fixation for enriching soil, reducing land degradation and mitigating climate change. However, supply of quality green fodder in India is extremely precarious, and the gap is huge against demand. The major fodder legume crops cultivated in India are Medicago sativa, Trifolium alexandrinum, Vigna unguiculata, Vigna umbellate and range legumes are Stylosanthes spp., Desmanthus virgatus, and Clitoria ternatea. Indian subcontinent represents wide spectrum of eco-climates and reported diversity of 21 forage legumes genera viz., Desmodium, Lablab, Stylosanthes, Vigna, Macroptelium, Centrosema and browse plants Leucaena, Sesbania, Albizia, Bauhinia, Cassia, Grewia, etc. Diversity of forage legumes were collected (>3200 accessions), evaluated and sources for different biotic and abiotic stress tolerance were identified, apart from >50 cultivars developed. Considering these aspects, tropical legumes for livestock production, soil health and ecosystem services, diversity, evaluation and breeding for improved varieties are discussed in this chapter.
Part of the book: Forage Groups