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Characteristics of White Clover
White clover (Trifolium repens L.) is a short- lived, perennial which
can reseed itself under favorable conditions. It grows rapidly and spreads via stolons.
White clover has a shallow root system which make it intolerant of droughty soils. It
grows best during cool, moist weather on well-drained, fertile soils with a pH between 6
and 7. Pure stands of white clover are not usually planted because of their low growth
habit and associated low yield. However, they make high quality pastures in mixture with a
grass and fix nitrogen for use by the grass.
Adapted White Clover Varieties
The various types and varieties of white clover are undistinguishable
from each other except for their size. Ladino and Regal are varieties of white clover
which have leaf stems (petioles) that grow taller than other white clover varieties.
Because of this taller growth habit these varieties are often referred to as large type
white clovers. Dutch or common white clovers have slightly shorter petioles than the large
white clover types. White clovers with the shortest petioles are classified as small
clovers. The names of these small clovers frequently contain the words "wild
white". These small white clovers yield less than the large types but persist better
under heavy continuous grazing.
White Clover Establishment
White clover can be "frost seeded" (in early spring when the
soil is still honeycombed with frost) into existing grass pastures to improve pasture
production and quality. This seeding technique requires that the seeding be done while the
soil contains frost. Delaying seeding until mid-morning when the soil has become slippery
on the surface will result in poor stand establishment. White clover can also be no-till
seeded into existing grass pastures.
Seeding white clover-grass mixtures into a conventionally prepared
seedbed is also an excellent method of establishment. Do not plant deeper than 1/4 inch
when seeding. Press wheels or cultipacking used in conjunction with or after band seeding
will improve the seed-soil contact and the chances of obtaining a good stand. To obtain a
proper seeding depth, the seedbed should be firm. This can be accomplished by cultipacking
Fluid seeding (planting in a fertilizer solution) of white clover onto a
well-prepared, firm, fine seedbed can also be successful. Cultipacking before fluid
seeding to make a firm seedbed and after fluid seeding to insure good seed-soil contact
will improve stand establishment. Fluid seeding requires special equipment, therefore a
custom applicator is recommended.
Seeding rates of white clover into an existing grass pasture should be
2-4 lb. per acre. White clover seeds are relatively small and one pound of seed contains
about 800,000 seeds. Therefore the seeding rates for white clover appear low relative to
other forages. Hay or silage mixtures which contain white clover should also contain a red
clover to increase the potential yield.
White Clover Harvest Management
Harvest management of white clover for hay or silage production is
generally based on the grass in mixture with the clover since white clover constitutes
such a small proportion of the total forage and its quality remains relatively high at
maturity. Harvest should be dictated by the harvest schedule which maximizes grass
Pasture mixtures which contain a legume offer many advantages but also
require more careful management than pure grass pastures. Advantages of having white
clover or any legume in a pasture mixture is that forage quality is improved over a pure
grass pasture and the stand requires less nitrogen application because of the legume N
White clover can be grazed continuously or rotationally. It can be
grazed to a height of about 1 inch without serious damage to the stand. However, closely
grazed white clover plants must be allowed to recover. If rotationally grazed with a
tall-growing grass, the pastures should be grazed at intervals which do not allow the
grass to excessively shade the white clover. On predominantly white clover pastures, bloat
can be a problem.
White Clover Fertility
Lime and fertilizer needs of white clover should be determined by soil
testing before planting. For best results the soil pH should be between 6 and 7. Starter
fertilizer application of up to 20-60-20 lb. per acre will often assist in white clover
establishment. If the soil test calls for nutrients in excess of this amount, they should
be applied prior to seeding and incorporated into the seedbed. If white clover is to be
seeded into an established winter grain, topdress applications of nitrogen to the small
grain should not be made.
Clover stands should be fertilized annually according to soil test
recommendations. In the absence of a soil test and assuming a medium- fertility soil,
apply 0-60-145 lb. per acre. When white clover makes up less than 30% of a white
clover-grass mixture, apply 30 to 50 lb. of N per acre to enhance grass production.
White Clover Summary
White clover is a low-growing forage legume which is predominantly used
in pasture mixtures with grasses. It will improve forage quality above a pure grass stand
and supply nitrogen for grass growth. White clover can tolerate close grazing but persists
best if allowed a period to recover. Its contribution to the total forage yield in a mixed
stand is generally relatively small but its overall contribution to forage quality and
nitrogen for the grass makes it an excellent legume for pasture mixtures.
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Agriculture: Committee of the Role of Alternative Farming Methods in Modern Production
Agriculture - by National Research Council - List: $30.25 - Publication Date: September
Book News, Inc., 01/01/90:
Eleven case studies explore how alternative farming systems have been adopted--and with
what economic results--on farms of various sizes producing different crops across the
country. Annotation copyright Book News, Inc. Portland, Or.
- Making Hay - by Verlyn Klinkenborg - Publication Date:
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The New York Times Book Review, Christopher Lehmann-Haupt :
Mr. Klinkenborg has achieved a terse idiom that amounts almost to Middle Western rural
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(Editor) - Publication Date: March 1994 - List: $165.00
The publisher, John Wiley & Sons :
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The Second Edition incorporates and integrates recent findings that render more
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by R. Naidu - Publication Date: 1995 - List: $120.00
Card catalog description
Sodic soils cover almost a third of the total land in Australia and are represented to
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Australia, or may develop as a result of the removal of salts from saline soils. Sodicity
impacts adversely on many soil properties and interferes with the proper functioning of
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Booknews, Inc. , 08/01/96:
Previously published as Agriculture Handbook, no. 170 (revised 1994), Soil Conservation
Service, US Department of Agriculture. This handbook is a working guide to the status of
named and experimental grasses available for use in the US. No attempt has been made to
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information provided by the preparer. Descriptions, with some exceptions are those
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Annotation c. by Book News, Inc., Portland, Or.
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This page was last updated on November 16, 2002