Index | Search | Home

new crop logo

Sesbania bispinosa (Jacq.) W.F. Wight

Syn.: Coronilla cannabina Willd.
Closely related, if not synonymous with S. aculeata and S. cannabina
Canicha, Danchi, Dunchi fiber

Source: James A. Duke. 1983. Handbook of Energy Crops. unpublished.

  1. Uses
  2. Folk Medicine
  3. Chemistry
  4. Description
  5. Germplasm
  6. Distribution
  7. Ecology
  8. Cultivation
  9. Harvesting
  10. Yields and Economics
  11. Energy
  12. Biotic Factors
  13. References


Danchi stems, used for pipe-stems, provide a strong durable fiber, substituted for hemp in rope, twine, cordage for fish net, gunny sacks, and made into a cloth used for sails. According to NAS (1980a), the plant, with fibers simliar to those of birch, "is an exciting potential new source of paper products." The crop is grown as green manure (adding 150 kg N/ha), leaves for forage, and in South Africa, for poultry feed. Plant is eaten in time of famine. Seeds contain a guar-like gum used in films for sizing textiles and paper products and for thickening and stabilizing solutions. Grown also for firewood, the plant is used for erosion control, hedges, intercropping "mother plants," nitrogen fixation, and windbreaks. In Vietnam, it is planted in the rice fields and harvested for firewood before the rice crop is harvested. It is said to have the admirable trait of supressing weeds like Imperata cylindrica in moist situations (Duke, 1981a; NAS, 1980a).

Folk Medicine

Medicinally, seeds are mixed with flour and applied to ringworm, other skin diseases, and wounds (Duke, 1981a). Ayurvedics regard the root as alexiteric, anthelmintic, collyrium, diuretic, and lactagogue. Kirtikar and Basu (1975) report that around Las Bela it is used for wounds, and powdered roots are administered to snakebite victims, inducing emesis and perhaps a cure.


Seeds of the genus Sesbania are reported to contain trypsin inhibitors and chymotrypsin inhibitors. Seed are reported to contain 6.2% of a fixed oil and 32.9% crude protein. Gohl (1981) reports seed analyses from South Africa showing 36.4% CP, 12.1% CF, 1.5% ash, 6.9% EE, and 43.1% NFE; from India showing 32.7% CP, 10.7% CF, 5.0% ash, 2.9% EE, 48.7% NFE, 0.37% Ca, and 0.59% P. Oven-dry fiber is reported as 0.71% ash, 0.94 fat and wax, 2.3 nitrogenous matter, 9.76 pentosan, 16.3 lignin, 85.2 holocellulose (63.6% alpha cellulose), etc. (These figures from Mazumdar et al, 1973, add up to more than 100%, and must be evaluated carefully.) (Duke, 1981a).


Erect suffuticose low annual subshrub, up to 7 m tall; stems fairly thick, glabrous, branched from the base but soft and pithy; leaves up to 38 cm long, pinnate, leaflets 18–55 pairs, 1.2–2.5 cm long, 0.3 cm wide, glabrous, glaucous; inflorescence 2–8-flowered, 2.5–7.5 cm long; flowers yellow and purple-spotted; pods up to 25 cm long, 0.3 cm thick, curved, many-seeded. Fl. Sept.–Nov. (India).


Assigned to the Hindustani Center of Diversity, danchi, or cvs thereof, is reported to exhibit tolerance to alkaline soils, drought, heavy soil, low pH, salt, sandy soil, weeds, and waterlogging. (2n = 12, 24). (Duke, 1981a; NAS, 1980a).


Native to northern India, Pakistan, China, Sri Lanka, and tropical Africa, this crop is cosmopolitan in the Old World Tropics, and has been introduced in southern United States and the Phillippines; a common weed in tropical Africa from Senegal to the Cameroons.


Crop adapted to wet areas and heavy soils, which do not require much preparation. Under waterlogged conditions stem produces a spongy mass of aerenchyma. It thrives in low to medium elevations (0–1200 m), along streams, in open wetlands or often as a weed in rice paddy fields. Ranging from Subtropical Moist through Tropical Dry to Moist Forest Life Zones, danchi is reported to tolerate annual precipitation of 5.5–22.1 dm (mean of 4 cases = 3.4), annual mean temperature of 19.9–27.3°C (mean of 4 cases = 23.8), and pH of 5.8–7.5 (mean of 3 cases = 6.9) but has been grown in pH 9.2 (Duke, 1981a; NAS, 1980a).


In India seed sown in June–July at onset of southwest monsoon; sowings after September produce poor seed production. In southern United States seed broadcast after soil has been moistened by rains in April or May and harrowed. In India seed is usually broadcast, but sometimes drilled in rows 30 cm apart. Seed may be drilled or broadcast at rate of 20–60 kg/ha. Thicker planting facilitates harvest of small plants. The crop is fast-growing, needs little weeding. Usually no fertilizers are applied. In India, grown either as a main crop in rice rotation or as a border crop on the edge of rice fields. On alkali soils (pH 9.2) with added N, P, K, and zinc sulfact rice ('IR8-68') yielded 6.74 MT/ha where danchi was plowed in, on 16 4.52 MT/ha after fallow. The effect of green manuring was equivalent to the addition of 80 kg N/ha (Duke, 1981a).


Ready to cut in September or October, but the fiber does not suffer if left standing until seed is ripe in November. In India seed matures in about 5–5 1/2 months; in the United States in about 2 months. Ripe pods normally do not shatter. In India pods are usually hand-picked and threshed by beating with sticks; however, if hand-picking is delayed beyond March, some pods shatter. In the United States crop is harvested by machine and windrowed, and then threshed with an ordinary grain thresher. Seeds must be treated with insecticides before storing, as they are liable to damage by insects. Processes for steeping and cleaning the fiber are similar to those for sunn hemp (Crotalaria juncea). About 2 kg of fiber can be dressed per day (Duke, 1981a).

Yields and Economics

In India yields of seed are about 600 kg/ha; in Peru, 900 kg/ha; in California, 1,000 kg/ha. Fiber yields are 100–1,000 kg/ha.


Recommended as a firewood crop by NAS (1980a), the stems of danchi have low density (sp. grav. 0.3) but yield well in 6 months. It is used for firewood for example in Vietnam and Pakistan, where villagers use it to evaporate water from sugar. In Italy, a yield of 15 MT/ha DM is reported. The NAS states, "In the tropics, where more than one crop can be harvested each year, the annual production could be even higher." (NAS, 1980a). In a table comparing oil seed yields, Duke and Bagby (1982) report 1,000 kg seed per hectare for Sesbania bispinosa, with 200 kg/ha seed (Vigna umbellata) the lowest reported in that table, and 14,000 kg/ha (Sapium sebiferum) the highest, both rather extreme.

Biotic Factors

This crop is self-pollinating and requires no isolation for pure seed production. Several nematodes attack this Sesbania: Meloidogyne incognita, M. javanica, and Trichodorus minor. In southern United States, this crop usually precedes autumn planted vegetables. However, because of nematode attack, it is not recommended for growing in sandy soils with other susceptible crops, as cucurbits. Weevils and caterpillars attack seed pods, and the seeds in storage. These may be controlled with insecticides. Plants are attacked by the parasitic flowering plant, Dendrophthoe falcata.


Complete list of references for Duke, Handbook of Energy Crops
Last update Friday, January 9, 1998 by aw