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Prickly sesban (Sesbania bispinosa)


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

Prickly sesban, canicha, sesbania, spiny sesbania [English]; sesbane, sanô, sano-khangkhok, mrindazia سيسبان ثنائي الأشواك [Arabic]; ধনস্যা (dhanasa) [Assamese]; ধইঞ্চা [Bengali]; 刺田菁 [Chinese]; لوبیای درختی خاردار [Farsi]; ढैंचा (dhaincha, danchi) [Hindi]; रान शेवरी (raan shevari) [Marathi]; செங்கிடை (cen-kitai), மலைமுருங்கை (malai-murunkai) [Tamil], ఎర్రజీలుగ (errajiluga) [Telugu]; Điển gai [Vietnamese].


Sesbania aculeata (Willd.) Poir., Aeschynomene aculeata Shreber, Aeschynomene bispinosa Jacq., Sesbania bispinosa (Jacq.) Steud., Sesbania cannabina (Retz.) Pers. (Orwa et al., 2009)


The prickly sesban (Sesbania bispinosa (Jacq.) W. F. Wight) is a fast-growing tropical annual legume shrub used for fodder in Asia, Africa, and Central America.


Sesbania bispinosa reaches 2-7 m high. It is well branched and stems are fairly thick. Leaves are pinnately compound with 18-55 pairs oblong leaflets. Leaflets are 1.2-2.5 cm long and 0.3 cm wide. Inflorescences are racemes bearing 1-12 yellow and purple spotted flowers. Flowers are self-fertile, pods are curved, 25-48 seeded. Seeds and bark produce high protein content gum (Ecocrop, 2010; Orwa et al., 2009; Duke, 1983).


Sesbania bispinosa is a multi-purpose shrub. Its stems provide a strong durable fibre used in the paper industry and said to be superior to jute fibre for water-related activities. The prickly sesban is cultivated to make green manure (Arunin et al., 1987; Orwa et al., 2009). The mature seeds are cooked and eaten by the Gonds and Katkaris ethnic groups in India (Siddhuraju et al., 1995). However, nutritional information about prickly sesban as human food is still scarce (Pugalenthi et al., 2004). Seeds mixed with flour are used in the treatment of ringworm, skin diseases, snake bites and wounds (Orwa et al., 2009). Seeds contain high amounts of pinitol, an antidiabetic substance (Misra et al., 2004).

Prickly sesban leaves are used as fodder for sheep, goats and cattle. They are used as poultry feed in South Africa (Pugalenthi et al., 2004). It is possible to make silage with the leaves (Orwa et al., 2009). The seed meal can be used to feed cattle (Orwa et al., 2009).


The origins of Sesbania bispinosa are debated. It may have originated from the Indian subcontinent (Ecocrop, 2010) and it is now widespread in Central America, Virgin Islands, Vietnam, China, India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Uganda (Orwa et al., 2009). It is common in low countries, especially in dry regions.

Prickly sesban grows well in wet areas and is tolerant of flooding. It often occurs as a weed in rice fields, marshes and mangroves ( Arunin et al., 1987; Anita et al., 2009). Optimal growth conditions are an annual rainfall of 550-2100 mm (Duke, 1983), daily temperatures of 20-27°C , and soil pH ranging from 5.8 to 7.5, sometimes up to 10 (Orwa et al., 2009), at altitudes ranging from sea level to 1200 m. Prickly sesban is tolerant of drought, salinity and high day temperatures (36-44°C) (Orwa et al., 2009; Arunin et al., 1987; Prasad, 1993).

Forage management 


Sesbania bispinosa was reported to yield up to 12-19 t/ha/year green fodder or green manure (Qamar et al., 2014; Prasad, 1993). It could produce 4.4 t/ha DM and provided 843 kg/ha of crude protein (19% CP) (Qamar et al., 2014). It is possible to make 2 harvests a year in the tropics (Ecocrop, 2010). Average seed yields range from 600 kg to 1000 kg/ha (Ecocrop, 2010).

Environmental impact 

Soil improver and soil remediation

Sesbania bispinosa is a good soil improver: fallen leaves, leftover stalks and roots add organic matter to the soil. The roots improve soil permeablility. It is useful for alkaline and saline soils remediation (Orwa et al., 2009; Qadir et al., 2002; NAS, 1980). Prickly sesban is a N-fixing legume and is often used as green manure in rice fields where it yields up to 12 t/ha (Arunin et al., 1987). Ploughing in foliage 60-70 days after planting and just before rice being planted out improves rice yield as much as an application of 80 kg - 150 kg N/ha (Orwa et al., 2009; Arunin et al., 1987).

Shelter and cover crop

Prickly sesban is used to provide windbreaks, hedges, erosion control, and shade and cover for crops. It is grown in alley-farming systems (Orwa et al., 2009). It competes strongly with weeds and may be useful in controlling Imperata cylindrica (Duke, 1983; NAS, 1980).

Nutritional aspects
Nutritional attributes 


Sesbania bispinosa foliage is relatively rich in protein (> 20% DM). Its composition is quite variable as it depends on maturity and on the proportions of leaves and stems in the foliage. Reported values for a ADF range from 12% to 27% DM for instance.


Prickly sesban seeds are very rich in protein (> 30% DM) and relatively poor in fibre and lipids. They are deficient in sulphur-containing amino acids (Hossain et al., 2002a).

Potential constraints 


Sesbania bispinosa foliage contains canavanine, a non-protein amino-acid that is an antinutritional factor for livestock (Bell et al., 1978). The content of condensed tannins in the leaves was reported to be low (less than 4 g/kg DM) up to 90 days (bloom stage). It markedly increased to almost 40 g/kg DM. The condensed tannins content in the stems were less than 6 g/kg DM (Al-Masri et al., 2008).


Like other legume seeds, Sesbania bispinosa seeds contain phenols, tannins, phytic acid, saponins and trypsin inhibitors as well as high proportions of non-starch polysaccharides such as b-glucans, arabinoxylans, and galactomannan (Hossain et al., 2002a). However, these antinutritional factors are present in low levels n Sesbania bispinosa seeds (Pugalenthi et al., 2004).



Prickly sesban leaves and young stems are a good protein source to supplement low nutritive forages, and the low condensed tannin content has no adverse effect on digestibility. As other legume trees, prickly sesban forage will then increase both intake and digestibility of the diet. However, the effects can be variable depending on the proportion of leaves and stems fed to the animals.

Degradability and digestibility

The in sacco DM degradability of Sesban bispinosa foliage was found to be high (85-87%). The N in vivo digestibility assessed in sheep was reported to be 55% and the N retention was 0.32 g N/g N ingested. These values were higher than those reported for Acacia nilotica and Albizia procera foliages (Alam et al., 2007).

As for other forage shrubs, the in vitro OM digestibility of leaves and stems was reported to decrease (from 70.5 to 66.6 %) with maturity (60 or 120 days) and with the length of cuttings. The low values of condensed tannins (about 20 g/kg DM) at 120 days did not seem to have adverse effect on in vivo OM digestibility (Al-Masri, 2009).

Nutritive value of prickly sesban forage tested in sheep was high: 20.6% digestible proteins in DM and energy digestibility of about 68% (Katiyar et al., 1969).

Sheep and goats

Prickly sesban foliage has been mainly tested on small ruminants. The leafy upper half of the shrub was reported to be palatable to sheep (Katiyar et al., 1969). In sheep, DM digestibility of prickly sesban foliage in a diet based on 70% prickly sesban hay and 30% wheat bran decreased with age of cutting (50 or 80 days), from 60% to 50% (Khanum et al., 2010). Used as only feed, leaves could support a moderate growth in castrated male goats (Shahjalal et al., 2000). The chemical composition and consequently the animal performance are related to the proportion of the leaves, stems or wigs and also to the stage of regrowth or maturity. Results must be carefully analysed according to these aspects before drawing any conclusion.

Results obtained on sheep and goats in Asian countries are summarized in the following table.

Table 1. Results obtained in small ruminants fed on prickly sesban

Animal Breed and physiological stage Country Experiment Rate Main results Reference
Goats Damascus does (52.2 kg) Syria Prickly sesban (leaves + stems) hay offered in a diet including lentil straw and concentrate during gestation, no control diet
300 g/animal/d; whole gestation
300 g/d/anim. No particular negative effect except a possible early embryonic mortality observed, but this is not clear Zarkawi et al., 2003
  Black Bengal male (9 kg) Bangladesh Prickly sesban (leaves + twigs) as sole feed compared to road-side grass, 56 d ad libitum DMI and DMD of S. bispinosa were higher (229 vs 179 g/d and 62% vs 55%) Shahjalal et al., 2000
  Local breed Pakistan Basal diet (wheat straw and wheat bran, amount unknown) supplemented with prickly sesban unknown higher weight gain (12.4 vs 0 g/d); and DMD of the diet higher (58.2 vs 56.4%) Nizamani et al., 2013
Sheeo Awassi ewe (62.3 kg) Syria Prickly sesban (leaves + stems) hay and barley replaces half straw and total commercial concentrate in a complete diet (28 - 29 % concentrate) for ewes fed from 2.5 months before mating until weaning   No effect on body weight change, fertility, birth weight or weaning weight of the lambs; using S. bispinosa and barley can save commercial concentrate and reduces the cost of the diet Zarkawi et al., 2005
  Cameroon whethers (19.8 kg) Bangladesh Prickly sesban (leaves + stems) included into a diet based on wheat straw, 23 d

10 or 20 %

Straw dry matter intake increased with 10 or 20 % from 42.5 g/kg BW-75 to 58 g/kg BW-75; OMD of the diet increased from 40.5% to 46-47.8 %; Only the 20 % level allowed 139 g/d weight gain compared to -84 and -23 g/d for 0 or 10% Khandaker et al., 1998
Dairy cattle

In India, low producing Desi dairy cattle could be fed on a mixture of prickly sesban and leucaena (Leucaena leucocephala) foliages as a protein source to supplement urea-treated-straw. It was shown that the animals had higher body weight gain and reproduction parameter than the control. There was no difference in milk yield (Alam et al., 2009).


Prickly sesban seeds have been reported to have higher protein content than conventional grain legumes like chickpeas (Cicer arietinum), mung bean (Vigna radiata) or cowpea (Vigna unguiculata). Prickly sesban seeds have relatively high in vitro OM digestibility (72.3%) that is slightly lower than that of soybean seeds or faba seeds. The in sacco N degradability (58%) is lower than that of soybean seeds but higher that that of faba beans. Treatments like roasting, soaking, autoclaving had variable effects on antinutrionnal factors and on subsequent digestibility enhancement (Hossain et al., 2002a).

Soaked and ground seeds of prickly sesban could be included at 850 g/day as a protein source in a berseem hay ad libitum based diet of 13 month-old Haryana calves (150 kg BW) during 135 days. Calves consumed up to 2.88 kg DM/100 kg BW and they had 366 g daily weight gain with this ration (Nath et al., 1991; Nath et al., 1990).


No information could be found about the use of prickly sesban in pig feeding (as of 2020).


Seeds of Sesbania bispinosa can be used in poultry diets in limited amounts (5%). While early reports from South Africa stated that prickly sesban seeds were valued by farmers as poultry feed (Anon., 1919), later studies showed depressed growth and hepatic damage in broilers fed with 10% prickly sesban seeds, despite autoclave thermal treatment (Das et al., 1993). In the same study, no significant damage was observed at the level of 5%.

In chickens fed diets with 20% prickly sesban seeds, raw or autoclaved, autoclaving resulted in better performance than for raw seeds, but still far below than the control diet (Katoch et al., 1974). Similarly, boiled seeds of prickly sesban could be used in chicken feeding to replace up to 50% fish meal (Gheyasuddin et al., 1988).

Toasting could increase feed intake, weight gain and improved feed conversion ratio provided the level of prickly sesban seeds remain low (5% dietary level) (Qureshi et al., 1990).



Up to now (June 2020) no information seems available in the international literature on the use of Sesbania bispinosa foliage for rabbits. As this species is widely used in ruminants, green or dried Sesbania bisbinosa must be considered as a potential safe forage also for rabbits, though direct experiments are strongly recommended before any utilization in rabbit feeding. The nutritive value for rabbits is probably relatively high and close to that for sheep (Lebas, 2016).


No information on the use of prickly sesban seeds in rabbit feeding seems available in the international literature (June 2020). The seeds are very rich in proteins but just cover rabbit requirements in lysine, and only 50% of the requirements in sulphur amino acids (Lebas, 2004; Pugalenthi et al., 2004; Siddhuraju et al., 1995). As noted previously, the seeds have relatively low contents in antinutritional factors. For these various reasons, prickly sesban seeds could be considered as a potential source of proteins, and probably of digestible energy for rabbit feeding, but some preliminary studies with rabbits are required before extensive utilisation.



Sesbania bispinosa seeds have been tested in fish diets as a source of protein that could replace more expensive protein sources.

Common carp

In common carp (Cyprinus carpio), untreated prickly sesban meal seed was included at increasing dietary levels, from 12% to 48%. Levels higher than 12% resulted in lower growth performance, degraded feed conversion ratio and other efficiency ratios (protein and energy). It was suggested to limit the seeds to 12% dietary level in order to maintain growth performance and nutrient utilisation (Bhat et al., 2009; Hossain et al., 2001).


In Nile tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus), prickly sesban seed meal replacing fish meal resulted in lower growth performance, possibly due to the presence of tannins, saponins and non-starch polysaccharides. It was possible to include up to 9.7% untreated Sesbania seed meal (10% of the dietary protein) without affecting growth performance and nutrient utilization (Hossain et al., 2002b).



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 21.2   17.2 23.6 3  
Crude protein % DM 23.8 7.5 11.1 36.3 12  
Crude fibre % DM 20.8 5.6 14.7 32.7 9  
Neutral detergent fibre % DM 31.3 9.8 18.5 43.9 5  
Acid detergent fibre % DM 20.4 5.5 12.1 26.6 5  
Lignin % DM 5.3 0.4 4.7 5.9 5  
Ether extract % DM 5.3   3.4 7.7 3  
Ash % DM 11.9   8.5 16.6 4  
Gross energy MJ/kg DM 18.7       1 *
Secondary metabolites Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb  
Tannins (eq. tannic acid) g/kg DM 30       1  
Tanins, condensed (eq. catechin) g/kg DM 4       1  
Ruminants nutritive values Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb  
OM digestibility, ruminants % 75.3       1 *
Energy digestibility, ruminants % 72         *
DE ruminants MJ/kg DM 13.5         *
ME ruminants MJ/kg DM 10.6         *
Nitrogen digestibility, ruminants % 63.7   56.5 69 3  
Nitrogen degradability (effective, k=6%) % 61       1 *
Nitrogen degradability (effective, k=4%) % 69         *
a (N) % 25       1  
b (N) % 72       1  
c (N) h-1 0.06       1  
Rabbit nutritive values Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb  
DE rabbit MJ/kg DM 10.7         *
MEn rabbit MJ/kg DM 9.8         *
Energy digestibility, rabbit % 57.3         *
Nitrogen digestibility, rabbit % 76.7         *

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


Alam et al., 2007; Al-Masri, 2009; Khandaker et al., 1996; Khandaker et al., 1998; Khanum et al., 2007; Khanum et al., 2010; Qamar et al., 2014; Shahjalal et al., 2000

Last updated on 15/09/2020 13:47:34

Main analysis Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb  
Dry matter % as fed 89.6   88.9 90.4 3  
Crude protein % DM 33.4 2.5 29.7 36.4 5  
Crude fibre % DM 9.8   5.7 12.1 4  
Neutral detergent fibre % DM 37.6       1  
Acid detergent fibre % DM 18.6       1  
Lignin % DM 3       1  
Ether extract % DM 5.8 1.7 2.9 7 5  
Ash % DM 3.5 1.3 1.5 5 5  
Gross energy MJ/kg DM 20   20 22.1 2 *
Amino acids Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb  
Alanine g/16g N 5.4   3.5 7.2 2  
Arginine g/16g N 6.2   4.5 8.5 3  
Aspartic acid g/16g N 10.8   10 11.7 2  
Cystine g/16g N 0.8   0.7 0.9 2  
Glutamic acid g/16g N 15.7   14.1 17.3 2  
Glycine g/16g N 5.6   3.9 7.4 2  
Histidine g/16g N 4.3   0.8 8.5 3  
Isoleucine g/16g N 3.7   3.1 4.8 3  
Leucine g/16g N 6.4   5.3 7.2 3  
Lysine g/16g N 5.2   4.5 5.9 3  
Methionine g/16g N 1   0.9 1 3  
Methionine+cystine g/16g N 1.8         *
Phenylalanine g/16g N 4.1   3.5 4.4 3  
Phenylalanine+tyrosine g/16g N 7         *
Proline g/16g N 4.9       1  
Serine g/16g N 4.7   4.3 5.1 2  
Threonine g/16g N 3.1   2.4 3.8 3  
Tryptophan g/16g N 1.1   0.9 1.4 2  
Tyrosine g/16g N 2.9   2.7 3.1 3  
Valine g/16g N 4   3 4.8 3  
Fatty acids Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb  
Myristic acid C14:0 % fatty acids 2.6   2.1 3.1 2  
Palmitic acid C16:0 % fatty acids 18.3   18.3 18.4 2  
Palmitoleic acid C16:1 % fatty acids 0       1  
Stearic acid C18:0 % fatty acids 11.1   11.1 11.2 2  
Oleic acid C18:1 % fatty acids 14.9   14.7 15.2 2  
Linoleic acid C18:2 % fatty acids 43.2   42.8 43.7 2  
Linolenic acid C18:3 % fatty acids 8.8   8.8 8.9 2  
Minerals Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb  
Calcium g/kg DM 3.1   2.6 3.7 3  
Phosphorus g/kg DM 4.2   3 5.9 3  
Potassium g/kg DM 8.7   8.2 9.3 2  
Sodium g/kg DM 1.1   0.93 1.26 2  
Magnesium g/kg DM 2.2   2.2 2.3 2  
Manganese mg/kg DM 9   9 9 2  
Zinc mg/kg DM 47   45 49 2  
Copper mg/kg DM 10   9 11 2  
Iron mg/kg DM 78   72 83 2  
Ruminants nutritive values Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb  
OM digestibility, ruminants % 85.9         *
Energy digestibility, ruminants % 86.3         *
ME ruminants MJ/kg DM 13.6         *
Nitrogen digestibility, ruminants % 78.8         *
Nitrogen degradability (effective, k=6%) % 86         *
Nitrogen degradability (effective, k=4%) % 89         *
a (N) % 67 22 12 72 5  
b (N) % 29 28 11 84 5  
c (N) h-1 0.115 0.048 0.05 0.18 5  
Rabbit nutritive values Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb  
DE rabbit MJ/kg DM 14.1         *
MEn rabbit MJ/kg DM 12.7         *
Energy digestibility, rabbit % 70.3         *
Nitrogen digestibility, rabbit % 82.3         *

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


Anon., 1919; Hossain et al., 2001; Pugalenthi et al., 2004; Sen, 1938; Siddhuraju et al., 1995

Last updated on 15/09/2020 14:10:26

Datasheet citation 

Heuzé V., Tran G., Hassoun P., Bastianelli D., Lebas F., 2020. Prickly sesban (Sesbania bispinosa). Feedipedia, a programme by INRAE, CIRAD, AFZ and FAO. https://www.feedipedia.org/node/255 Last updated on September 15, 2020, 14:17