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Moth bean (Vigna aconitifolia)


Click on the "Nutritional aspects" tab for recommendations for ruminants, pigs, poultry, rabbits, horses, fish and crustaceans
Common names 

Moth bean, mat bean, math, matki, moth, dew bean, dew gram, Indian moth bean, kidney bean, Turkish gram [English], haricot mat, haricot à feuille d'aconit, haricot papillon [French], motboon [Afrikaans, Dutch]; mattenbohne [German]; મઠ [Goudjerati]; bhringga, matki, mot, मोठ (moth)[Hindi]; madaki, madike, saabara hesara kaalu, thuruku hesaru, tutuku hesaru [Kannada]; mat, math, matha, मटकी (matki) [Marathi]; payaru, tulkapayir [Tamil]; kunkumapesalu, minumulu [Telugu]; لوبياء أقونيطية الأوراق [Arabic];鸟头叶豇豆 [Chinese]; モスビーン [Japanese]; Đậu bướm [Vietnamese]


Phaseolus aconitifolius Jacq.

Related feed(s) 

Moth bean (Vigna aconitifolia (Jacq.) Marechal) is an annual herbaceous trailing legume native to South Asia used for food (seeds) and feed (forage) that has outstanding tolerance of dry conditions.


Moth bean has a prostrate creeping habit. The main stem is slender, erect, up to 40 cm in height. Up to 12 trailing primary prostrate branches, 60-150 cm long are produced from the main stem. The leaves are alternate, petiolated, compound, 3-foliolate. The leaflets are 5-12 cm in length, deeply lobed. The inflorescence is an axillary, dense false raceme borne on a 5-10 cm long peduncle. The flowers are bisexual, typically papilionaceous, and bright yellow in colour. The standard is up to 8 mm long and the wings 6 mm long. The fruit is a hairy, brown or pale grey cylindrical pod, 2.5-5 cm long x 0.5 cm broad. It contains 4-9-(10) rectangular to cylindrical seeds (3-5 mm x 1.5-2.5 mm). The seeds are whitish green, yellow to brown in colour, often mottled. The 1000-seed weight is 10–35 g (NARO, 2020; Brink et al., 2006; Adsule, 1997).


Vigna aconitifolia is a multipurpose legume that provides both palatable and outstandingly drought-resistant, hot-season pasture and hay for livestock and seeds/pods for human consumption (Brink et al., 2006; Saravanan et al., 2015). The pasture is relished by livestock and it can make valuable hay for sheep. After seed harvest, the straw (dry haulms) remains nutritious and palatable (Adsule, 1997). The immature pods and seeds are part of the Indian diet. The green pods can be boiled as a vegetable. At maturity, the seeds can be cooked or fried, and they can be ground and mixed with flour to make dhal and unleavened bread (Brink et al., 2006). The empty pods and the seed teguments removed during the preparation of dhal can be fed to animals. Moth bean can be grown for green manure and as a cover crop. It is useful in mixtures with lablab, pigeon pea and Sudan grass. The seeds are used medicinally in diets to treat fevers. The roots are said to be narcotic (Brink et al., 2006).


Moth bean is native to India, Pakistan and Myanmar. It is particularly common in semi-arid to arid regions, especially in the North-western desert areas of South Asia and adjacent regions (Jain et al., 1980). It is widely cultivated in India (1.5 million ha in 2016), Sri Lanka, China, Pakistan, and also grown in the South-Western states of the USA (Texas and California), and in Canada (Kochhar, 2016; Munro et al., 1998).

Vigna aconitifolia is grown from sea-level up to an altitude of 1300 m and it does outstandingly well in arid and hot regions (NARO, 2020; Kochhar, 2016; Brink et al., 2006). It is the most drought-resistant pulse crop of India. It does better in places where average temperature are 24–32°C, but withstands daytime temperatures up to 45°C. Moth bean thrives with a well-distributed annual rainfall of 500–750 mm, but keeps growing successfully in areas with as low as 200–300 mm annual rainfall. The plant provide yield even with as little as 50–60 mm in 3–4 showers during the growing period (Brink et al., 2006). Moth bean plants thrives and keep being green and succulent even at the end of the hot season, when other crops have succumbed to the heat, even after the seeds and pods are ripe – until the arrival of cold weather (Sherasia et al., 2017). Moth bean can grow on a variety of soils. However, it is particularly suitable for dry light sandy soils and does not tolerate waterlogging. It is somewhat salt tolerant and can grow on a wide pH range (3.5–10) (Brink et al., 2006).

Forage management 

Although Vigna aconitifolia is an annual of only five months duration, it can be used as a pasture legume as it reseeds easily once it has been well established before being grazed.


Seed yields

Worldwide, average seed yields are only 70–270 kg/ha (Brink et al., 2006). However, in Australia and the USA, experimental seed yields could reach 2600 kg/ha (Brink et al., 2006). In Canada, yields were reported to range between 237 and 921 kg/ha. In India, yield ranged from 450 to 766 kg/ha depending on variety and P supply (Meena et al., 2010; Munro et al., 1998).

Forage yield

The yield of fresh forage is in the range of 37–50 t/ha, and the yield of hay was reported to be 7.5–18 t/ha (Baath et al., 2018; Brink et al., 2006).


Vigna aconitifolia seeds should be sown on a well-prepared seedbed towards the end of the rainy season, on residual moisture. The seeds can be broadcasted at a rate of 10-20 kg/ha when the crop is intended for seed production or at 7-34 kg/ha when it is grown for forage. The seeds can also be sown at 2.5-4 cm depth in rows (30-90 cm apart) at 2-5 kg/ha in pure stands. When grown as a rainfed crop in arid regions best results were obtained in India by planting equal amounts of early and late types in alternate rows. While weeding is important until a full canopy has developed, the application of fertilizer or irrigation is rare (Brink et al., 2006).

Moth bean can be grown as a sole crop or intercropped with pearl millet, sorghum or other cereals, occasionally with pulses. It is also grown as a green manure in rotation with cotton. Moth bean is sensitive to several viruses, fungi and nematodes. It can also be invaded by Striga spp. (Brink et al., 2006).


Because of their prostrate habit, moth bean plants are difficult to harvest with a mower and are mainly cut with a sickle, left to dry for one week, then threshed and winnowed (Brink et al., 2006).


The seeds are prone to bruchids (Callosobruchus spp.) attacks during storage (Brink et al., 2006).

Environmental impact 

Moth bean is used as a cover crop to prevent soil erosion (Munro et al., 1998).

Nutritional aspects
Nutritional attributes 


Moth bean seeds are rich in protein (21-28% DM) and starch (about 50%), and poor in fibre and fat. Like other legume seeds their amino acid profil is rich in lysine and poor in sulphur amino acids and tryptophan. The vitamin levels in seeds are relatively lower than those in soybean (Gopalan et al., 1982 cited by Adsule, 1997).


Moth bean forage contain moderate amounts of protein (9-17% DM), which is slightly lower than other legume forages like cowpea (Vigna unguiculata) or black gram (Vigna mungo). ADF values range from 21 to 30% DM. Ash content is very high, from 13 to 18% DM. The stems are small and the leaves do not easily fall off when the plant is dried (Sherasia et al., 2017).

Potential constraints 

As many other grain legumes, moth bean seeds contain antinutritional factors such as trypsin inhibitors, polyphenols, phytic acid, saponins, oxalic acid and amylase inhibitors. Autoclaving of moth bean meal for 10 min (120°C at 1 atm pressure) was reported to completely destroy trypsin inhibitor activity (Kadam et al., 1986). Cooking significantly reduced tannins and haemagglutinins in the seed. The proportion of phytic acid decreased by 46-50% after soaking in plain water and mineral salt solution for 12h (Khokhar et al., 1986). Germination and cooking were effective in reducing phytic acid content (Borhade et al., 1984 cited by Adsule, 1997). Sprouting for 60 h had the most pronounced saponin lowering effect (44-66%)(Khokhar et al., 1986).


Despite being widely grown in South Asia, the value of Vigna aconitifolia forage for ruminants has not been widely studied. It seems to be a palatable forage of moderate to good quality.


Moth bean forage (fresh, hay, haulms) is generally found to be palatable and readily eaten by livestock (Sherasia et al., 2017; Adzule, 1997).


Moth bean forage was found to have a feeding value almost equal to that of alfalfa hay (Sherasia et al., 2017). In a comparison of in vitro OM digestibility, values for moth bean forage were found to be slightly lower than those obtained with alfalfa (72 vs 77%) (Bala et al., 2015).


Fresh moth bean forage was given with salt as the only feed to 4 Bachaur cattle for 20 days. The cattle ate on average 2.34 kg per 100 kg liveweight and remained healthy. They showed a positive balance for N, Ca and P (Johri et al., 1970).


A comparison of buffel grass (Cenchrus ciliaris) straw, guar (Cyamopsis tetragonoloba) forage and moth bean forage fed ad libitum to Marwari sheep found that DM intake was higher for the sheep fed guar or moth bean compared to buffel grass (2.95 and 3.04 kg vs 2.76 kg respectively) and that liveweight was also higher (4.9% and 4.3% vs 2.4%) (Mathur et al., 2005).


Moth bean forage was used as a basal roughage in goats feeding experiments and in complete feed blocks (Nehra et al., 2018; Sharma et al., 2001). It was possible to prepare complete feed blocks based on moth bean straw (60%) and groundnut cake (22%), wheat bran (10%), barley (2%), de oiled rice bran (3%), mineral mixture (2%) and salt (1%). Goat kids fed on the blocks had 85 g daily gain (Nehra et al., 2018).


Camels fed on moth bean forage had higher ruminal volatile fatty acid production and higher N retention than other ruminants which suggested that camel digested moth bean forage better than other ruminants (Bhatia et al., 1992).


No information could be found (as of 2020).


No information could be found (as of 2020).


No information seems available in the international literature (June 2020) on the utilisation in rabbit feeding of moth bean forage or seeds. Since seeds are traditionally used in human nutrition and the forage is used to feed livestock, moth bean can be considered as a potential feed source for rabbits, like other plants of the Vigna genus. The seeds contain antinutritional compounds but these are of low incidence in rabbit feeding (Khokhar et al., 1986).

Horses and donkeys 

In a trial using equine faecal liquor, in vitro DM digestibility and OM digestibility of moth bean forage were found to be 64% and 67% which was lower than values obtained with alfalfa (75% and 72%) but higher that those on grasses like sewan grass and para grass. Feeding horses on moth bean fodder also resulted in lower methane emissions (Bala et al., 2015).

Nutritional tables

Avg: average or predicted value; SD: standard deviation; Min: minimum value; Max: maximum value; Nb: number of values (samples) used

Main analysis Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb  
Dry matter % as fed 92.3 1.6 89.6 96.2 16  
Crude protein % DM 25.4 2.2 21.3 28.4 21  
Crude fibre % DM 5.2 0.4 4.3 5.6 15  
Neutral detergent fibre % DM 13.1         *
Acid detergent fibre % DM 6.5         *
Ether extract % DM 1.9 1.5 0.6 5.3 17  
Ash % DM 4.1 0.5 2.8 5.6 17  
Starch (polarimetry) % DM 47.9       1  
Total sugars % DM 7.5   7.5 7.6 2  
Gross energy MJ/kg DM 18.4         *
Amino acids Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb  
Alanine g/16g N 5   3.7 6.7 3  
Arginine g/16g N 4.8   3.8 6.1 3  
Aspartic acid g/16g N 10.4   10.1 10.6 3  
Cystine g/16g N 0.4   0.2 0.6 2  
Glutamic acid g/16g N 14.2   12.8 16.1 3  
Glycine g/16g N 4.2   3.1 5.9 3  
Histidine g/16g N 3   2.8 3.2 3  
Isoleucine g/16g N 4.6   4.2 4.8 3  
Leucine g/16g N 7.2   6 8.1 3  
Lysine g/16g N 6   5.7 6.3 3  
Methionine g/16g N 1.6   1.5 1.6 2  
Methionine+cystine g/16g N 2       1 *
Phenylalanine g/16g N 4.2   2.9 5.5 3  
Phenylalanine+tyrosine g/16g N 6.9       1 *
Proline g/16g N 4.5   3.3 5.8 3  
Serine g/16g N 4.3   3 5.6 3  
Threonine g/16g N 3.9   3.6 4.3 3  
Tryptophan g/16g N 1   0.7 1.2 2  
Tyrosine g/16g N 2.7   1.4 3.4 3  
Valine g/16g N 4.9   4.6 5.2 3  
Fatty acids Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb  
Myristic acid C14:0 % fatty acids 3   2.2 3.8 2  
Palmitic acid C16:0 % fatty acids 20.2   16.5 24.9 3  
Palmitoleic acid C16:1 % fatty acids 7.4   5.6 9.2 2  
Stearic acid C18:0 % fatty acids 7.9   7 9.4 3  
Oleic acid C18:1 % fatty acids 22.1   18 29.6 3  
Linoleic acid C18:2 % fatty acids 23.4   19.7 28.3 3  
Linolenic acid C18:3 % fatty acids 16.7   6.8 23.1 3  
Minerals Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb  
Calcium g/kg DM 2.8 0.6 2.3 3.6 6  
Phosphorus g/kg DM 3.2 1.2 1.4 4.7 9  
Potassium g/kg DM 10.7 9.5 3.4 24.5 7  
Sodium g/kg DM 0.32   0.25 0.37 3  
Magnesium g/kg DM 2.1   1.4 2.6 3  
Manganese mg/kg DM 19   9 32 3  
Zinc mg/kg DM 39 26 12 75 5  
Copper mg/kg DM 10   5 18 3  
Iron mg/kg DM 103 57 65 203 5  
Pig nutritive values Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb  
Energy digestibility, growing pig % 88.2         *
DE growing pig MJ/kg DM 16.2         *
MEn growing pig MJ/kg DM 15.4         *
NE growing pig MJ/kg DM 11.3         *
Nitrogen digestibility, growing pig % 91.8         *
Poultry nutritive values Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb  
AMEn cockerel MJ/kg DM 13.7         *
AMEn broiler MJ/kg DM 13.7         *
Ruminants nutritive values Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb  
OM digestibility, ruminants % 88.2         *
Energy digestibility, ruminants % 86.5         *
ME ruminants MJ/kg DM 12.8         *
Nitrogen digestibility, ruminants % 76.8         *
Rabbit nutritive values Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb  
DE rabbit MJ/kg DM 14.8         *
Energy digestibility, rabbit % 80.5         *

The asterisk * indicates that the average value was obtained by an equation.


Badami et al., 2019; Boora, 2004; Borade et al., 1984; Kalidass et al., 2012; Kevate et al., 2010; Meena et al., 2010; Sen, 1938; Siddhuraju et al., 1994; Soris et al., 2011

Last updated on 21/09/2020 18:23:09

Main analysis Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb  
Crude protein % DM 13.2 1.7 10.6 15.5 12  
Crude fibre % DM 22.7   19.7 26.8 3  
Neutral detergent fibre % DM 42.2         *
Acid detergent fibre % DM 27 2.8 20.7 29.6 9 *
Ether extract % DM 2.1   1.9 2.5 3  
Ash % DM 14.9   12.6 18.3 3  
Gross energy MJ/kg DM 16.9         *
Minerals Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb  
Calcium g/kg DM 25.8   23.4 30.3 3  
Phosphorus g/kg DM 3   1.8 5.4 3  
In vitro digestibility and solubility Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb  
In vitro DM digestibility (pepsin) % 69       1  
In vitro OM digestibility (pepsin) % 72       1  
Ruminants nutritive values Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb  
OM digestibility, ruminants % 72.6         *
Energy digestibility, ruminants % 69.4         *
DE ruminants MJ/kg DM 11.7         *
ME ruminants MJ/kg DM 9.5         *
Rabbit nutritive values Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb  
DE rabbit MJ/kg DM 8.3         *
Energy digestibility, rabbit % 49         *

The asterisk * indicates that the average value was obtained by an equation.


Baath et al., 2018; Bala et al., 2015; Johri et al., 1970; Patel, 1966; Sen, 1938

Last updated on 22/09/2020 16:05:41

Main analysis Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb  
Dry matter % as fed 86.2       1  
Crude protein % DM 13.1   8.9 17.2 2  
Crude fibre % DM 29.3   29.1 29.4 2  
Neutral detergent fibre % DM 50.5         *
Acid detergent fibre % DM 34.5         *
Ether extract % DM 1.7   1.7 1.7 2  
Ash % DM 13.2   12 14.4 2  
Gross energy MJ/kg DM 17.4         *
Minerals Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb  
Calcium g/kg DM 19.6       1  
Phosphorus g/kg DM 1.2       1  
Ruminants nutritive values Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb  
OM digestibility, ruminants % 66       1 *
Energy digestibility, ruminants % 63.1         *
DE ruminants MJ/kg DM 10.9         *
ME ruminants MJ/kg DM 8.8         *
Nitrogen digestibility, ruminants % 67       1  
Rabbit nutritive values Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb  
DE rabbit MJ/kg DM 7.2         *
Energy digestibility, rabbit % 41.4         *

The asterisk * indicates that the average value was obtained by an equation.


Fraps, 1916; Patnayak et al., 1979

Last updated on 22/09/2020 16:04:30

Main analysis Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb  
Crude protein % DM 12.5 2.4 9.6 15.3 7  
Crude fibre % DM 22.3   19.4 25.2 2  
Neutral detergent fibre % DM 41.8       1 *
Acid detergent fibre % DM 26.6       1 *
Ether extract % DM 2.6   1.7 3.1 3  
Ash % DM 15.5   14.1 16.7 3  
Gross energy MJ/kg DM 16.8         *
Minerals Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb  
Calcium g/kg DM 20.4   10.7 30.1 2  
Phosphorus g/kg DM 2.8 0.6 2.3 4 6  
Potassium g/kg DM 7.3   6.9 7.7 4  
Secondary metabolites Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb  
Tanins, condensed (eq. catechin) g/kg DM 0       1  
Ruminants nutritive values Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb  
OM digestibility, ruminants % 73         *
Energy digestibility, ruminants % 69.8         *
DE ruminants MJ/kg DM 11.7         *
ME ruminants MJ/kg DM 9.5         *
Rabbit nutritive values Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb  
DE rabbit MJ/kg DM 8.3         *
Energy digestibility, rabbit % 49.1         *

The asterisk * indicates that the average value was obtained by an equation.


Abo-Donia et al., 2015; Meena et al., 2010; Patel, 1966; Saini et al., 2007

Last updated on 22/09/2020 16:01:24

Datasheet citation 

Heuzé V., Tran G., Lebas F., 2020. Moth bean (Vigna aconitifolia). Feedipedia, a programme by INRAE, CIRAD, AFZ and FAO. https://feedipedia.org/node/237 Last updated on October 27, 2020, 14:38