Morphology, tannin concentration and forage value of 15 Swiss accessions of sainfoin (Onobrychis viciifolia Scop) as influenced by harvest time and cultivation site. Grass Forage Sci. 2011, 66, 474-487.

Fifteen accessions of sainfoin (Onobrychis viciifolia Scop.) were characterized for morphological and phenological traits at Reckenholz in the Swiss lowlands (Experiment 1). The effects of accession, harvest time and site on dry-matter yield, condensed tannin (CT) concentration and forage value (Experiment 2) were determined at three sites in Switzerland varying in altitude from 440 to 559 m. Three to four harvests were taken in the first year after establishment (second year of stand) with harvests 1 and 2 chemically analysed. From the characterization in Experiment 1, a clear grouping of single flowering (Communis) and multiple flowering (Bifera) accessions emerged. Additionally, within the Communis accessions, distinct groupings were identified (historical landraces and newly collected ecotypes) based on morphological characteristics. Experiment 2 showed that Communis and Bifera accessions had a similar chemical composition in the first harvest. In the second harvest, Communis accessions were higher in crude protein and CT and lower in neutral and acid detergent fibre concentrations than Bifera accessions. Total dry-matter yields were higher for Bifera accessions. Among the Communis accessions, ecotypes had consistently higher CT concentrations than landraces. In vitro organic matter digestibility did not significantly differ among accessions. There were clear effects of harvest time and site for most variables, with clear harvest time × sainfoin group interaction but no site × sainfoin group interactions. The results clearly demonstrate that historical landraces and newly collected ecotypes expand the range of available genetic variation for sainfoin breeding.