Common Vetch

Scientific name: 

Vicia sativa L.

Agronomic Legume
Annual precip. min (mm): 
Annual precip. max (mm): 
Seed size: 
Seeds per kg: 
PR Suitability note: 
Common vetch is a cool season winter annual. Not suited to the Peace Region.
Key considerations: 
Commonly used for green manure, in pasture of for hay. Can be used to improve wildlife habitat.
General Description: 

Common vetch is a cool season, winter annual legume that is often used as a green manure crop or in pasture mixes. It is sometimes referred to as garden vetch. It has a taproot that can grow 100 to 175 cm (39 to 70 in.) deep, and prolific smaller roots in the upper 15 to 30 cm (6 to 12 in.) of the soil.

Common vetch produces a slender vine that grows along the ground from 60 to 180 cm (24 to 71 in.) in length. The leaves terminate in tendrils that can attach and climb up the stems of other grasses or crops in the mix. The leaves are very similar to hairy vetch with 4 to 10 leaflets, but the leaves are slightly larger and have a more distinct terminal point.

Common vetch can be identified by its unique inflorescence, which is unusual for forage plants. Flowers are larger than hairy vetch and develop where leaf axis joins the stem. Flowers are pinkish purple. Seeds pods are grown to gray, flat, elongated and have 8 to 10 seeds inside that are orange to cream in colour and oval to wedge shaped.

Native to southern Mediterranean countries of Europe. Introduced to North America during 1800s.
Habitat and climate: 
Found on roadsides and waste places, sometimes introduced into agriculture areas of southeast Vancouver Island, Lower Mainland, and rarely on the islands of Haida Gwaii. Perhaps some suitability to British Columbia’s southern interior if introduced and seeded in spring, but use undocumented.
Used commonly as a green manure, in pasture or for hay. It can also be used to improve wildlife habitat and protein sources.
Optimal time of grazing use: 
Delay grazing until common vetch plants are 15 cm (6 in.) tall.
Recovery after use (rating): 
Recovery after use: 
Regrows well if lightly grazed, at least 5 cm (2 in.) is left and axillary buds below lowest leaf are left intact.
Forage yield (rating): 
Forage yield: 
Can produce 4,480 to 6,720 kg/ha (4,000 to 6,000 lb/acre) when seeded alone in mid-west United States.
Palatability/Nutritional Value: 
High quality hay and grazing but bloat is a risk.
Longevity (rating): 
An annual legume.
Persistence (rating): 
Common vetch can persist longer than its annual life cycle where it is adapted because of the hardness of its seed and its natural reseeding.
Invasiveness (rating): 
Not on E-flora invasive list but considered to have some invasive potential due to its rapid spreading in open spaces with low fertility. Its seed is less hardy than hairy vetch, so reducing its risk as a problem weed.
Competitiveness (rating): 
Weed resistance (rating): 
Weed resistance: 
Provides excellent spring weed suppression.
Erosion control (rating): 
Drought tolerance (rating): 
Winter hardiness (rating): 
Winter hardiness: 
Less winter hardy than hairy vetch, so used as a spring annual in colder climates.
Soil texture preference (rating): 
Soil texture preference: 
Common vetch does not tolerate extremes in soil conditions as well as hairy vetch.
Flooding tolerance (rating): 
Flooding tolerance: 
Has low flooding tolerance but can tolerate short periods of saturated soils.
Acidity tolerance (rating): 
Acidity tolerance : 
Tolerates 5.5 to 8.2 pH but optimum is 6.5.
Pests and/or disease threats: 
Insect pests may include pea aphids, cutworms, army worms, grasshoppers, lygus bugs, clover leafhopper, and potato leafhopper. Disease threats may include leaf spot, downy mildew, stem rots, root rots, rush, and anthracenose.
Ease of establishment (rating): 
Ease of establishment: 
Establishes well in the fall in areas with milder winters, or in the spring in areas with cooler winters. When seeded alone, common vetch is commonly seeded at 65 to 84 kg/ha (58 to 75 lb/acre) in Oregon or 27 to 33 kg/ha (24 to 27 lb/acre) in Nebraska. May have limited application in British Columbia’s interior unless spring seeded.
Application requirements: 
Establishes best if drilled into firm, prepared seedbed 0.6 to 1.2 cm. Can also be broadcast if seeding rate is increased. Fertilizing with phosphorus is often required at about 30 kg/ha (27 lb/acre) actual P.
Suggested mixtures: 
For forage uses, mix with grasses like annual ryegrass or small grains. Is grown with other crops for improving soil or suppressing weeds.
Management considerations: 
There are reported poisonings with livestock, horses and chickens, particularly if seed is ingested.