Hairy vetch (Vicia villosa Roth) is an annual legume used as a cover crop, green manure crop and occasionally as a forage. In the Midwest, it is one of the few annual legumes that is used as a winter cover crop because it is moderately winter hardy. As a winter cover crop, hairy vetch can reduce soil erosion and in the spring be used as a green manure crop to add carbon and nitrogen to the soil. Hairy vetch conducts biological nitrogen fixation and can contribute from 50-150 pounds of fixed N to subsequent crops depending on the spring biomass production. Because of its viney prostrate growth habit, it is often planted with winter rye which supports hairy vetch growth.


Vinter hairy vetch

‘Vinter’ is a new hairy vetch variety with superior winter survival and spring biomass production. It was developed from the most winter-hardy local ecotypes identified in winter survival evaluation across multiple Minnesota environments and winters. Seed from plants surviving severe winters was composited and recurrently selected for high vigor and ground coverage in fall and early spring. Individual plants were also evaluated for biomass at maturity and seed yield.

Vinter is a replacement for widely marked “VNS” (variety not stated) seed that is of unknow winterhardiness and for varieties developed in milder climates like “Purple Prosperity” and “Purple Bounty." Figure 1 shows the superior biomass production of Vinter following a severe winter without snow cover. In mild winters its spring yields can be lower than less winterhardy varieties.


Figure 1. Spring biomass yields at flowering for Vinter and other hairy vetch varieties following severe and mild winters. Results for northern environments of Minnesota, Wisconsin, Nebraska, and New York.

Although hairy vetch has been used as a forage, cattle and sheep health issues have been sometimes observed because of the presence of antiquality chemicals in the seed and forage. Therefore, we do not recommend use of “Vinter” and any hairy vetch variety for forage. Vinter hairy vetch should be available through the Albert Lea Seedhouse.

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