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01 Mucuna Bracteata - Introduction

Cover crops establishment and management is an integral part of plantation crops like Hevea, Oil Palm, Citrus and  Coconut . An ideal cover crop should have maximum important characteristics like

  • Fast growth
  • Maximum Nitrogen fixation
  • Shade
  • Drought tolerance
  • Non palatable to cattle
  • Free from pest and disease incidence
  • Effectively prevent soil erosion
  • Prevent weed growth

Absence of competition for moisture and nutrients is most preferred character of an ideal cover crop. Leguminous plants have unique character of fixing  atmospheric nitrogen in their root nodules.Creeping and climbing legumes are considered as cover crop as they have most of the desirable characters of a cover crop. In the present context of non-availability of workers and escalating charges for weed management is a problem. Therefore creeping and climbing legumes are selected as cover crops.

The popular cover crops like Pueraria phaseoloides (javanica), Calapoganium mucunoides, Calopogonium caeruleum , Centrosema pubescens and Mimosa invisa var inermis lacks some of these beneficial characteristics. During his stint at  Rubber Research Institute of India, Dr R Kothandaraman  collected a lot of creeping leguminous plants and studied their suitability to use as a cover crop. A fast growing wild leguminous creeper collected from Tripura State in North Eastern region of India by  Sivasankara Panickar ( Sivasankara Panickar,1981) in the beginning of seventies and established in the Museum of cover crops of Rubber Research Institute of India , Kottayam, India.The plant was identified as Mucuna bracteata. Mucuna bracteata is a native of India and adjacent countries. A thorough study was carried out on its suitability to use as a cover crop in Rubber plantations in India by R.Kothandaraman.  It was found to have all the desirable characters of an ideal cover crop.(Kothandaraman et.al . 1987)  

Later on it was introduced as a cover crop for Hevea (Rubber Plantation) and  Oil palm plantations in Malaysia and else. where. The plant Mucuna bracteata is a fast growing, deep rooted perennial creeping and climbing legume found as wild plant among road side and forest boundaries in North Eastern region of India. It grows fast even in summer producing deep tap root. It has  dark green tri-foliate leaves on  long petioles. The leaves tend to droop during periods of high temperature and avoid much heat and exposure to direct sun. The tender vines are light violet in colour and later on change to green. Older vines are brown with dark brown raised spots. Under normal condition a vine grows to a length of 10 to 15 cm in a day.Fibrous roots develop from nodes of vines growing on the ground when the soil is wet. Mucuna bracteata produce transparent liquid when cut which later on changes to brown due to oxidation of phenols.