General description

Crotalaria juncea, known as brown hemp, Indian hemp, Madras hemp, or sunn hemp, is a tropical Asian plant of the legume family (Fabaceae), with yellow flowers and elongate, alternate leaves

Benefits

  • Source of green manure, fodder and lignified fiber obtained from its stem. Possible bio-fuel. Used for cordage, fishing nets, ropes, and more
  • Soil improving crop via nitrogen fixation
  • It produces a compound that is toxic to several nematode species, making it an excellent weapon for pest management and to control root-knot nematodes
  • Can be grown as livestock feed – it is non-toxic to animals but the seeds need to be boiled
  • It is recommended for rotation with crops prone to nematode infection, such as potato, tobacco, because it is a non-host or poor host for many plant-parasitic nematodes
  • Used as an alternative to winter legume cover crops. It can improve soil properties, reduce soil erosion, conserve soil water, and recycle plant nutrients

When can I pick it?

To obtain the highest quality fiber, harvesting should take place during the seed pod stage. Harvesting should be done at the flowering stage (60-90 days after sowing) since the fibre is thinner at this stage.

When grown for forage, it can be harvested, starting 6 – 8 weeks after sowing, and then every 4 weeks. The main portion of the stem is left to dry on the ground during 1 to 6 days, depending on places, so that it shed its leaves and becomes ready for retting

Side effects

  • The seeds are reported to contain trypsin inhibitors; they are said to be poisonous to cattle, and they can poison both horses and pigs
  • Many pyrrolizidine alkaloids have pronounced hepatic toxicity, but the lungs and other organs may be affected as well. Mutagenic and carcinogenic activities of pyrrolizidine alkaloids have also been reported. But pyrrolizidine alkaloids have a cumulative effect upon the body and, unless concentrations in a plant are high, occasional use is generally completely safe
  • Raw seeds are toxic and can not be fed to cattle without prior boiling.
Categories: Plants