• forage yield components;
  • stem density;
  • stem length;
  • breeding;
  • Mediterranean legumes;
  • crude protein;
  • genetic correlations;
  • phenotypic correlations


Conventional breeding programmes on common vetch (Vicia sativa L.) are based on knowledge of relationships between forage yield components and economically important characteristics. To improve this knowledge, a small-plot trial was carried out in 2005 and 2006 at Rimski Šančevi, Serbia, with fourteen common vetch accessions from the Novi Sad Vicia collection of diverse geographic origin and collection status. Results showed significant variability in forage yield components and related characteristics. Two-year average values of forage dry matter (DM) yield ranged from 8·0 t ha−1 (cvs. Armantes and Labari) to 10·2 t ha−1 (cv. Slavej). The highest 2-year average concentration of crude protein (CP) was for cv. Armantes (239 g kg−1 DM). Highly significant positive genetic correlation coefficients were found between time from sowing to first flowering and main stem length (0·938) and between number of stems per plant and CP content in the forage DM (0·910). Significant positive phenotypic correlation coefficients were detected between main stem length and time from sowing to first flowering (0·830). A cluster analysis showed four main groups of cultivars based on the recorded forage yield components and related characteristics. It is concluded that common vetch represents a stable and reliable source of protein-rich forage for regions such as the Balkans area of SE Europe. Genetic variability within common vetch and knowledge of the tested cultivars offer a basis for further improvement and developing novel cultivars.