Undersowing clover

Find out the benefits and drawbacks of undersowing clover.  

Back to: Establishing clover

Why undersow clover?

Undersowing crops with clover or grass can help maximise production per hectare and is a good way to establish leys.

Spring-sown cereals are ideal for undersowing because they are less dense than winter-sown crops like winter wheat.

Cereal varieties should be early-maturing and resistant to lodging. Barley is preferred because it is less competitive than triticale or oats. Open canopy crops, such as brassicas or potatoes, can also be successfully undersown and aid pest and weed control.

Top tips

  • Sow the clover or grass on the same day as the cover crop
  • Cereal sowing rate should be reduced by one third
  • Open canopy crops can be sown at their usual sowing rate, with the clover or clover/grass mix sown at normal rate

Approximate rate recommendations for undersowing cereal with clover

  • White clover alone – 4.0 kg/ha (1.5 kg/acre)
  • White clover with ryegrass – clover, 2.5 kg/ha (1.0 kg/acre) and ryegrass 29.5 kg/ha (12.0 kg/acre)
  • Red clover alone – 12–14 kg/ha (5–6 kg/acre)
  • Red clover with ryegrass – clover, 7.5 kg/ha (3.0 kg/acre) and ryegrass 19.0 kg/ha (7.5 kg/acre)


  • Reduced nitrogen leaching
  • More available nitrogen for successive crop
  • Quick establishment of grazing ley
  • Reduced cultivations
  • Less weed pressure

Potential drawbacks

  • Undersown crops may compete with the cover crop; most likely where there is a high proportion of ryegrass
  • In wet years, the undersown crop may become more green and vigorous, making harvesting difficult
  • If it does not get enough sunlight or nutrients, the secondary crop may not establish as well as it would if it had been drilled after harvest of the main crop
  • At high fertiliser rates, undersown clover alone can increase nitrate leaching
  • There may be implications for fungicide and pesticide applications

Useful links

Find out more about cover crops

Learn more about grassland reseeding

Read the Establishing and growing clover guide

If you would like to order a hard copy of the Establishing and growing clover guide, please contact publications@ahdb.org.uk or call 0247 799 0069.

The information in these web pages was sourced from Germinal, Grassland Development Centre (IBERS, University of Aberystwyth) and Charlie Morgan (GrassMaster Ltd).