Nutritional Value of Sesbania sesban

Sesbania sesban is found throughout sub-Saharan Africa and in other tropical regions. Studies conducted by researchers at the International Livestock Center for Africa (ILCA) have shown that leaves from a local accession of S. sesban from Debre Zeit, Ethiopia, are highly nutritious. The crude protein content of the leaves is high (25% to 30% of dry matter) and they contain little tannin and other polyphenolics. Thus S. sesban is a useful source of protein for ruminant diets.

The objective of the ILCA study was to determine the nutritive values of six accessions collected from three different sites. They studied the influence of accession, individual trees within an accession, environment, and the polyphenolics on the nutritive value of S. sesban.

The differences in nutritive value between accessions were largely related to differences in amount of polyphenolics. When large amounts of polyphenolics are present they bond with protein and reduce its availability. However, low levels of polyphenolics can increase the nutritive value of feed by preventing bloat and improving protein utilization.

The parameters of nutritive value and content of polyphenolic compounds varied widely between accessions and sites. Three of the accessions contained little soluble phenolics and no insoluble proanthocyanidins (another antinutritive compound). The other three accessions had higher contents of both types of phenolics, with large variation among trees within accessions.

In feeding trials in 1988, sheep fed leaves from S. sesban gained 48g/day over 90 days. This equalled the growth rate achieved by sheep fed Vicia dasycarpa hay, the best legume hay treatment. Sheep fed S. sesban had high N intake, high N retention, and moderate faecal N. Thus S. sesban is a useful source of protein for ruminant diets, and may prove useful to farmers with livestock and the need for improved fodder.

From the ILCA Annual Report, 1988. For more information contact:

K.J. Peters or A. Tall
P.O. Box 5689
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia