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Barbadinho (Desmodium barbatum)


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Common names 

Barbadinho [Portuguese], zarzabacoa peluda [Spanish], hairy beggarweed [English]


Desmodium barbatum (L.) Benth. subsp. dimorphum (Baker) J.R. Laundon, Desmodium coeruleo-violaceum DC., Hedysarum barbatum L., Meibomia barbata (L.) Kuntze, Nicholsonia barbata (L.) DC., Nicolsonia barbata (L.) DC., Nicolsonia cayennensis DC., Nicolsonia major Steud., Nicolsonia radicans Steud., Perrottetia barbata (L.) DC., Urania barbata (L.) Desv. (ILDIS, 2009)

Feed categories 
Related feed(s) 

Desmodium barbatum (L.) Benth is a short-lived perennial, erect, more or less woody herb growing to a height of 1 m. It has trifoliate leaves with a grey silky pubescence. The basal leaves fall readily and the stem turns woody before flowering. Racemes are short, 2 to 4 cm long, borne on the ends of the branches. Flowers are usually red or occasionally white and borne in clusters. The pods are hairy, with two to four 3 mm long joints. Desmodium barbatum is used for pasture and hay (FAO, 2012).


Desmodium barbatum is widely distributed in America, from Florida to northern Argentina. In Africa, it is found from Zimbabwe to Madagascar. In Costa Rica, it was found growing at an altitude of 200 to 600 m. Attempts to naturalize Desmodium barbatum in the cerrado savannah in Brazil were disappointing as the plants could not survive more than six months. It is very susceptible to nematodes and requires an annual rainfall higher than 2000 mm and no more than 90-100 days without rain (Pizarro et al., 1996). Desmodium barbatum prefers well-prepared, deep, fertile soils. It is tolerant of cold and stands grazing, trampling and fire (FAO, 2012). It persists better at high stocking rates than at low ones (Pitman et al., 1988). Some accessions are less resistant to grazing than Desmodium heterocarpon (Kretschmer et al., 1990).

Forage management 

Desmodium barbatum establishes slowly. Row planting enabling interrow cultivations may help to suppress weeds in the first year. It should be cut for hay before flowering, taking care to preserve the leaves. If cut later, the material is too coarse. In Brazil, three cuts per year, with a yield of 7 t/ha of green material per cut, at a plant height of 50 to 60 cm have been recorded (FAO, 2012). Desmodium barbatum withstands cutting and recovers well, though in some areas there is little second growth (Bermúdez et al., 1968).

Nutritional aspects
Nutritional attributes 

Information about the forage value of Desmodium barbatum is scarce and needs updating. Though still grown, as with other Desmodium species Desmodium barbatum is probably not a highly nutrititious legume. The protein content is in the 12-17% range and the fibre content is high, in the 25-33% DM range for ADF and in the 8-11% DM range for lignin.

Potential constraints 

Desmodium species often contain tannins, but it is not known whether the tannin content of Desmodium barbatum has a significant effect on its palatability and nutritive value.


The reported in vitro DM digestibility values for Desmodium barbatum are high (66-86%) (Chamorro et al., 2005) and the only known in vivo DM digestibility value is 68% (Calvino, 1952). The only available study (as of 2012) considered this Desmodium species to be quite nutritious and described it as well accepted by cattle. It was suggested that it could make good hay and green chop when cut at a height of 20 to 30 cm (Bermúdez et al., 1968).

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 20.8 1
Crude protein % DM 13.9 2.0 12.1 17.3 7
Crude fibre % DM 29.2 5.9 22.6 34.0 3
NDF % DM 38.1 4.5 34.9 44.5 4
ADF % DM 28.6 3.7 24.5 33.0 4
Lignin % DM 9.2 1.6 7.6 10.6 4
Ether extract % DM 2.1 1
Ash % DM 6.5 1
Gross energy MJ/kg DM 18.8 *
Minerals Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb
Calcium g/kg DM 8.9 1
Phosphorus g/kg DM 1.4 1
Potassium g/kg DM 8.9 1
Sodium g/kg DM 0.1 1
Magnesium g/kg DM 2.5 1
In vitro digestibility and solubility Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb
DM digestibility, pepsin % 74.9 8.5 66.1 86.2 4

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


Chamorro et al., 2005; Otero, 1952; Pozy et al., 1996

Last updated on 24/10/2012 00:45:42

Main analysis Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb
Dry matter % as fed 83.0 1
Crude protein % DM 10.4 1
Crude fibre % DM 34.7 1
Ether extract % DM 4.0 1
Ash % DM 3.9 1
Gross energy MJ/kg DM 19.7 *
Minerals Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb
Calcium g/kg DM 3.4 1
Phosphorus g/kg DM 0.5 1
Ruminant nutritive values Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb
OM digestibility, Ruminant % 67.5 1
ME ruminants (FAO, 1982) MJ/kg DM 10.5 1
Nitrogen digestibility, ruminants % 73.0 1

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


Calvino, 1952

Last updated on 24/10/2012 00:43:43

Datasheet citation 

Tran G., 2016. Barbadinho (Desmodium barbatum). Feedipedia, a programme by INRAE, CIRAD, AFZ and FAO. https://feedipedia.org/node/306 Last updated on March 25, 2016, 15:35

English correction by Tim Smith (Animal Science consultant) and Hélène Thiollet (AFZ)
Image credits