White Clover Has Potential for Improving Pasture Yield and Quality
White clover or Ladino clover is an introduced perennial legume. It originated in the Mediterranean region. It is a leafy legume and grows eight to 12 inches tall. It has stolons, or runners, and forms shallow roots at nodes. Leaves are oval-shaped, non-hairy and have a V-shaped water mark. It has clustered white flowers and produces numerous tiny seeds. In general, they reseed naturally and increase the seed bank in the soils.
White clovers are very winter hardy and tolerant of moderate soil acidity and wetter soils. However, they are not very productive on drought soils. They grow well in mixture of cool-season perennial grasses and thus increase pasture productivity and forage quality. The major use of white clovers is pasture as they produce very high quality forage. There is a potential of bloat problem when grazing white clovers alone. However, mixture with grasses will not have issues with bloat problems.
Establishment of white clovers is relatively easy compared to other legumes except alfalfa. White clover seeds can be broadcast at two to three pounds per acre with grasses in fall, largely September to October. Under favorable conditions, white clovers may shade out grass seedlings. Grazing or mowing may be necessary to reduce the competition. Established grass pastures can be overseeded in late fall, between October and November, or early spring, in March and April.
Management is important for the persistence of white clovers in the grass mixture. Competition of grasses from undergrazing is a major concern in maintaining good and productive stands. Grass competition can be reduced either by heavy grazing before white clover seeding or by wide row grasses and then white clover broadcast.
White clovers respond well to phosphorus and potassium. It is recommended to check soil fertility status, especially for phosphorus and potassium.
Also, grazing should be done at the right time and at right height to prevent shading of white clovers by grasses. Grazing when the clover is one to four inches tall is ideal.
White clovers may be affected by a number of leaf and root diseases, especially some viral diseases. Infected plants become weak and die after two to three years. To sustain productivity and quality of the pastures, it is recommended to reseed the pastures with white clovers every two to three years.
Anowar Islam is an assistant professor and the University of Wyoming Extension forage agroecologist in the Department of Plant Sciences in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. He can be reached at 307-766-4151 or firstname.lastname@example.org.