This study evaluated germination and establishment characteristics of native legumes, which may hold potential for development as water-efficient cover crops in Kansas. Twenty-three species were subjected to hot water scarification, cold-moist stratification, and no pretreatment and allowed to germinate on moist filter paper under ambient laboratory conditions for 16 days. In the field, 1 m2 plots were planted with 1.1 grams of seed of each of 23 native species and five introduced species at three planting dates, two in the fall and one in early spring. Seedlings were counted in late June. The effect of seed treatment on germination in the lab was highly species dependent. Hot water scarification had positive (4 species), neutral (16 species), or negative (3 species) effects on early germination (day 2), though fewer differences were seen on day 16. Stratification rarely had significant negative consequences and also affected both the rate and total amount of germination. Both species and planting date had significant effects on establishment in field plots. Establishment of all species was most successful with spring planting. Because of extremely dry conditions, this trend could be attributable to moisture availability. Though these results are preliminary, the lack of germination inhibition and successful establishment of some of the species in the field indicates that this is a promising direction of future research for new cover crops for harsh conditions.
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