Cicer Milkvetch (Astragalus cicer L.) - Frequently Asked Questions

Subscribe to our free E-Newsletter, "Agri-News" (formerly RTW This Week)Agri-News
This Week
 What is Cicer milkvetch ?
Cicer milkvetch is a cool season perennial legume introduced to North America from Europe. It’s root system consists of a short, branch taproot with a dense mass of thick rhizomes. Its vertical rooting depth is generally less than 1 meter. This non-bloat legume is suited for inclusion in mixtures with cool season grass species for hay or pasture use. Under the right growing conditions the plant is long-lived and competitive.

Where should cicer milkvetch be seeded ?
Cicer milkvetch can grow in moderately coarse calcareous soils, silty loams or fine clay. Salinity tolerance is low (< 5 ds/m) and it is not tolerant of acidic soils but it can tolerate moderately alkaline soils (pH < 8.1). Cicer milkvetch is best suited to areas that receive a minimum of 400 mm of annual precipitation. Although the plant is not flood tolerant it does perform well in sub-irrigated areas where the water table is within 1m of the soil surface.

Does cicer milkvetch have special seeding requirements ?
Cicer milkvetch has a reputation for being difficult to establish. To improve establishment use new cultivars, scarified seed and seed shortly after scarification. Seed shallow (1.5 cm) and delay seeding until seedbed temperatures are a minimum of 18 degrees Celsius. Unlike alfalfa or sainfoin, cicer milkvetch requires higher seedbed temperatures for good germination and emergence.

What seeding rates should be used ?
Seeding rates for cicer milkvetch should be based on pure live seed (PLS). Suggested seeding densities are 50 to 90 PLS seeds/meter for row seeding and 300 to 400 PLS seeds /m2 for broadcast seedings. The final bulk seeding rate will vary, reflecting variables such as row spacing, seed quality and seed amendments. Seeding rates can be developed with the use of the “ Forage Seed Mixture Calculator. The calculator is located on Alberta Agriculture’s Ropin the Web internet site (

Can cicer milkvetch be used for hay ?
Nutrient value and animal intake of cicer milkvetch hay is generally equal to alfalfa. Under hay management re-growth is slower than alfalfa. As result, hay yields in two or three cut systems are lower than alfalfa but comparable to alfalfa in areas with primarily one harvest per season.

Where does cicer milkvetch fit in a pasture system ?
Cicer milkvetch’s best forage growth occurs in mid summer. This growth pattern suits it for use as a source of summer grazing or as stockpiled fall pasture. Cicer milkvetch is more dependent on residual leaf material to support new growth than alfalfa. A rotational grazing system that provides rest periods of five to six weeks is recommended in pasture systems. Re-growth in pastures is generally faster than under hay production.

For more information:
Cicer Milkvetch - Plant Characteristics
Forage Species
Perennial Forage Establishment in Alberta
Forage Seed Mixture Calculator

Prepared by Gordon Hutton, Ag Info Center, Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development

Share via
For more information about the content of this document, contact the Ag-Info Centre.
This information published to the web on March 9, 2007.
Last Reviewed/Revised on November 10, 2016.