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Pueraria phaseoloides

Pueraria phaseoloides
Pueraria phaseoloides. Photo copyright ©2012 by Ravan Schneider

Morphological description. Vigorous, deep-rooted, perennial twining and climbing legume, slightly woody, hairy. Its main stems are slender, 6 mm in diameter and up to 10 m in length, rooting at the nodes upon contact with moist soil. Secondary branches arise from the nodes to create a dense mass of vegetation 60-75 cm deep if left ungrazed or uncut. Young shoots are densely covered with brown hairs. Leaves large, trifoliate, borne on petioles 5-10 cm long covered with ascending hairs. Leaflets thin, triangular-ovate, 2-20 cm x 2-15 cm, usually very shallowly lobed; lateral leaflets oblique 6-7 cm long and wide. Flowers small, mauve to deep purple, borne in scattered pairs in axillary racemes about 15-30 cm long on peduncles about 12.5 cm long. Pod straight, or slightly curved, linear, cylindrical, 4-11 cm x 3-5 mm, thinly covered with stiff adpressed hairs, turning black when ripe. Seeds 3 mm x 2 mm, oblong to squarish with rounded corners, brown to brownish black in colour. 10-20 seeds/pod . Seed weight 80,000-88,000/kg. 

Scientific name. Pueraria phaseoloides (Roxb.) Benth.

Subordinate taxa
Pueraria phaseoloides (Roxb.) Benth. var. phaseoloides. Pueraria phaseoloides (Roxb.) Benth. var. javanica (Benth.) Baker

Synonyms. Neustanthus phaseoloides (Roxb.) Benth.

Synonym for P. phaseoloides var. phaseoloides
Dolichos phaseoloides Roxb. [basionym]

Synonyms for P. phaseoloides var. javanica
Neustanthus javanicus Benth. [basionym]
Pueraria javanica (Benth.) Benth.

Family/tribe. Family: Fabaceae (alt. Leguminosae) subfamily: Faboideae tribe: Phaseoleae subtribe: Glycininae. Also placed in: Papilionaceae.

Common names. puero, tropical kudzu, centro grande, feuille. 


Native to: Southern China (Guangdong, Guangxi, Yunnan, Hainan Island, Hong Kong), Taiwan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam, Brunei, Indonesia, Philippines, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands.

Naturalised throughout the humid-tropics.

Uses/applications. Primarily used as a component of grazed and ungrazed cover crop mixtures or as a component of grass-legume pastures in the humid-tropics. Also used as hay, silage, and cut and carry forage .


Soil requirements. Wide adaptation to soil types, but does not perform well on heavy clays. Commercial cultivar well adapted to well-drained, acid soils (pH 3.5-5.5) with a high Al saturation, but requires medium-high soil fertility. Grows best within a pH range of 4.0-6.5, and requires P and Mg. Does not tolerate salinity.

Moisture. Prefers annual rainfall regimes of >1,500 mm, but will grow in the sub-humid tropics in 1,000-1,500 mm/year rainfall environments, particularly where temporary waterlogging occurs. Tolerant of temporary waterlogging and short periods of flooding. Not regarded as being drought tolerant. Puero will survive a dry season of 4-5 months, but will experience appreciable leaf loss.

Temperature. Optimum temperature 15°C, minimum temperature 12.5°C. Grows up to 1,600 m asl in the tropics. Good yields obtained at 1,500 m asl in the Colombian Andes. Poor frost tolerance .

Light. Moderately shade tolerant. Therefore, used as a cover crop in older stands of plantation crops, particularly coconuts.

Reproductive development. In the Brazilian savannas, at latitude 16ºS, the legume did not flower in the establishment year. In subsequent years, flowering took place from April to May. Time from first flowering to harvest was constant between years at 75 days. Observations suggest a weak short-day photoperiodic response reduced by high moisture availability.

Defoliation. Persists under moderate grazing pressure with continuous and rotational grazing on well-drained soils, due to its relatively low palatability during the growing season and its stoloniferous growth habit with rooting at the nodes. Recovers well after lenient grazing, but can be sensitive to heavy grazing, particularly on poorly drained soils.

Fire. Little tolerance of fire. 

Pueraria phaseoloides
Pueraria phaseoloides. Photo copyright © 2013 by CIAT.


Guidelines for the establishment and management of sown pastures.

Establishment Seed must be mechanically, chemically or hot water scarified to break the hard seed coat for optimum germination. Cover crops are seeded at a rate of 4 kg/ha, at a depth of 1-2 cm into a well-prepared seedbed. In pasture mixtures, seeding rates of 0.5-1.0 kg/ha are commonly used. Early growth (first 6 months) is slow compared with Calopogonium mucunoides , but subsequent growth is generally excellent. Can also be established using stolons. Promiscuous, but benefits from inoculation with Bradyrhizobium strains CIAT 2434, 3850 or 3918.

Fertiliser. Requires P at establishment. Subsequent fertiliser dressings for maintenance should be applied at 50% of the establishment rate. As a green manure crop, the legume decomposes rapidly providing 50-100 kg/ha N. Will respond to micronutrient application in some cases.

Compatibility (with other species). Generally more compatible with erect species and does not normally persist with Brachiaria decumbens or pangola grass (Digitaria eriantha ). However, under moderate grazing pressure on well-drained soils in high rainfall environments, persistent associations have been formed with stoloniferous grasses, eg. B. mutica in Vanuatu and B. brizantha in Brazil.

Companion species

Grasses: Andropogon gayanus , Melinis minutiflora , Panicum maximum and Pennisetum purpureum . The commercial cultivar has associated well with Brachiaria decumbens cv. Basilisk in the Colombian Llanos.

Pests and diseases. None of significance. However, leaf spot (Pseudocercospora puerariae) is common throughout tropical America, causing defoliation under humid conditions. Anthracnose (Colletotrichum gloeosporioides) has been reported in Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Venezuela and some Caribbean islands. Under prolonged humid conditions, the plant can be defoliated by foliar blight (Rhizoctonia solani), but recovers with dry weather.

Ability to spread. Rapid once the legume has established.

Weed potential. Has considerable weed potential in humid-tropical environments where it can be an aggressive climbing /smothering plant.  

 Pueraria phaseoloides as groundcover
Pueraria phaseoloides as groundcover under rubber trees grazed by sheeps

 Feeding value

Nutritive value. The legume has high levels of protein (CP 12-24%), and minerals, particularly Ca, and has a high digestibility (IVDMD 60-70%). In Nigeria, 6-month regrowth had in-sacco DMD of 52%, CP 14%, P 0.29% and Ca 0.80%. Indicators of nutritive quality declined slightly in the dry-season.

In Villavicencio, Colombia, chemical characteristics of 6-week-old herbage regrowth were 50% IVDMD, 22.6% CP, 0.30% P and 0.65% Ca in the wet season; compared with 55.5% IVDMD, 19.8% CP , 0.23% P and 0.52% Ca in the dry season.

Palatability/acceptability. Requires a period of adaptation by cattle. Commonly of only low to moderate palatability to grazing cattle during in the wet season, but relative palatability increases substantially at flowering. This may be related to the declining quality of the companion grass late in the season.

Toxicity. None reported.

Production potential

Dry matter. Annual DM yields of pure stands are high for a twining legume , ranging from 5-10 t/ha, with highest yields occurring in tropical environments with very short, or no dry season. Production in the dry season is low, due to leaf fall, but rapid regrowth occurs with the first rains.

In south-west Nigeria, unfertilised mixtures of P. phaseoloides with Panicum maximum or Pennisetum purpureum produced 13.6 t/ha/year DM and transferred approximately 40 kg/ha N to the grasses.

In a 4-year field trial at Porto Velho, Rondônia, Brazil on a dark-red podsolic soil, a pasture mixture of Brachiaria brizantha and P. phaseoloides produced an average annual yield of 35.3 t/ha DM, compared with 32.0 t/ha for B. brizantha alone. Growing in combination with B. brizantha , P. phaseoloides fixed 194 kg/ha/year N and transferred 75 kg/ha N to the grass. N fixed and transferred was significantly higher than for other common twining and herbaceous legumes.

Animal production. In the Colombian savannas, P. phaseoloides associations with Brachiaria decumbens grazed at 2 head/ha produced cattle LWGs of 160 kg/head/year, compared to 120 kg/head/year from grass alone. Daily animal gains ranged from 400-700 g/head. In humid-tropical Vanuatu (south-western Pacific), the addition of P. phaseoloides to a para grass (Brachiaria mutica ) pasture improved production by 22%, increasing annual LWGs from 511 to 621 kg/ha, and individual steer LWGs from 0.55 to 0.65 kg/head/day over a 3-year experimental period. 

Genetics/breeding. There are no breeding programs to improve P. phaseoloides . Self-fertile, chromosome number 2n = 22. Two varieties are recognised by GRIN, var. phaseoloides, which has acute calyx lobes and var. javanica, which has short, blunt calyx lobes and is a comparatively more robust plant. A third type, var. subspicata, is referred to by Maesen (1985).

Seed production. There are difficulties with seed production at some locations. Accordingly, seed yields are variable. In the Cauca Valley, Colombia, at latitude 3°N north, pure seed yields were 38-70 kg/ha. In the Brazilian savannas (16°S), hand-harvested pure seed yields were moderate at 110-136 kg/ha. At other locations, on fertile soils with a high organic matter content, pure seed yields have been 400-500 kg/ha. Plants require support, e.g. trellises, for high seed production and ease of harvesting.

Maruca testulalis, Lampides boeticus and Heliothis spp. attacked developing seed pods in northern Australia. Repeated applications of methomyl at 0.45 kg/ha a.i. were required to achieve control.

Herbicide effects. Tolerant of post-emergent applications of 2,4-D (0.08-0.48% solutions) and pre-emergent applications of alachlor (4.0 kg/ha) and haloxyfop, ametryne, linuron and 2,2-DPA. Susceptible to post-emergent applications of 2,4-DB and pre-emergent applications of pendimethalin. 


  • Tolerance of soil acidity.
  • High nutritive value.
  • Shade tolerance makes it suitable for plantation agriculture.
  • Persistent (for a twining legume) due to only moderate palatability .


  • Requires medium-high fertility soils.
  • Slow to establish.
  • Lack of drought tolerance.
  • Variable seed yields. 

Selected references

  • Costa, N.L. (1993) Agronomic evaluation of Brachiaria brizantha cv. Marandu in mixtures with forage legumes in Rondônia. Lavoura Arrozeira, 46, 10-12.
  • Halim, R.A. (1992) Pueraria phaseoloides (Roxb.) Benth. In: 't Mannetje, L. and Jones, R.M. (eds) Plant Resources of South-East Asia No. 4. Forages. pp. 192-194. (Pudoc Scientific Publishers, Wageningen, the Netherlands).
  • Maesen, L.J.G. van der (1985) Revision of the genus Pueraria DC. with some notes on Teyleria Backer (Leguminosae). Agricultural University Wageningen Papers 85-1 .
  • Muhr, L., Peters, M., Tarawali, S.A. and Schultze-Kraft, R. (1999) Forage legumes for improved fallows in agropastoral systems of subhumid West Africa: I. Establishment, herbage yield and nutritive value of legumes as dry season forage . Tropical Grasslands, 33, 222-233.
  • Mullen, B.F. and Macfarlane, D.C. (1998) The effect of band-seeding legumes into para grass (Brachiaria mutica ) on pasture production, sustainability and animal productivity in Vanuatu. Tropical Grasslands, 32, 34-40.
  • Tian Guanglong, Hauser, S., Koutika, L.S., Ishida, F. and Chianu, J.N. (2000) Pueraria cover crop fallow systems: benefits and applicability. In: Tian, G., Ishida, F., Keatinge, D.,
  • Carsky, R. and Wendt, J. (eds) Sustaining soil fertility in West Africa. Proceedings of a symposium sponsored by the Soil Science Society of America and the American Society of Agronomy , Minneapolis, USA, 5-9 November 2000. pp. 137-155. 

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