Forage identification is an important skill for knowing what species is growing and how to optimally manage it in pasture or silage and hay systems. Understanding the general form and structure, or morphology, of forage species will help you identify the key forage species.
Generalized drawings of a legume and a grass are shown in Figures 1 and 2.
Figure 1. Parts of a legume plant. Generalized illustration, not a particular species. (Credits: Southern Forages p. 20 and Forage Identification and Use Guide, Univ. KY pub. AGR-175. p.5.)
Figure 2. Parts of a grass plant. Generalized illustration, not a particular species. (Credits: Southern Forages p. 20 and Forage Identification and Use Guide, Univ. KY pub. AGR-175. p.5.)
To properly identify forage species, familiarity with numerous botanical terms is necessary. In addition to the terms used in the above diagrams, a an extensive glossary of forage identification terms is provided on the University of Wyoming Forage Identification web segment.
Photographs are also an important tool in learning to identify forage species. The University of Wyoming Forage ID web segment also contains photos of commonly grown forage legumes, grasses, and small grains. Click on the photograph to be linked to species descriptions and additional photographs.
The National Forage & Grassland Curriculum web segment within the Forage Information System has a Plant Identification topic. Instructional Objective 6 addresses the vocabulary needed to identify grasses. Instructional Objective 7 addresses the vocabulary needed to identify legumes. Instructional Objective 8 provides descriptions and illustrations of commonly used forage grass and legume species to build a foundation for learning important species. Instructional Objective 9 provides a species review and photos to identify.