Reference Work Entry

Encyclopedia of Global Archaeology

pp 3490-3493

Horse Gram: Origins and Development

  • Eleanor Kingwell-BanhamAffiliated withInstitute of Archaeology, University College London Email author 
  • , Dorian Q. FullerAffiliated withInstitute of Archaeology, University College London

Basic Species Information

Horse gram (Macrotyloma uniflorum (Lam.) Verdc. (syn. Dolichos uniflorus Lam.)), also known as kulthi, gahat, Madras gram, grain de cheval, kerdekorn, and favalinha, is a domesticated bean grown today across tropical Africa, South Asia, Southeast Asia, China, and Australia. In much of the older literature on the botany and archaeology of India, it is referred to as Dolichos biflorus, although this is a misnomer, and accepted nomenclature today is Macrotyloma uniflorum (see Smartt 1990; Fuller 2002). The stems and leaves of the plant are often used as fodder, while the beans are harvested for human consumption. Horse gram is tolerant of both drought and low soil fertility, making it a particularly important crop in drier areas of south India (Kachroo & Arif 1970; Smartt 1990). It requires very little input and can be used as a green manure to improve depleted soils. As such, it is often an important component of crop rotation systems in ...

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