Sowing success and harnessing the power of clover

Monday, 11 March 2024

In these coming weeks, put your plans in place to ensure you get the most from your clover fields. The benefits of white clover occur from late spring onwards as the swards white clover content increases. Good grazing management is important for increased persistence and production of white clover in grazed swards.

Clovers play a significant role in sustainable UK production for several reasons.

Reduces the cost of inputs for farmers

While feed and fertiliser prices remain high, having a dependable source of homegrown protein – such as clover in the fields – offers some protection from ever-rising input costs.

Their ability to take nitrogen from the air and convert it into a form that can be used by plants reduces the need for chemical fertilisers. This reduces the environmental impact of farming and lowers the cost of inputs for farmers.

White and red clovers are widely used in UK farming systems, and they each have unique characteristics and benefits.

Improves soil health and fertility

White clover is a perennial legume that is often included in grassland mixes to improve soil health and fertility.

Its root system helps break up compacted soil and improve drainage, which can improve the growth and yield of grasses.

Good source of protein

Clover is a valuable source of protein for livestock. Including clover in pasture mixes reduces the environmental impact of animal agriculture.

Did you know that for every 10% increase in the amount of clover in the sward, the crude protein content of the first-cut silage increases by 1%?

Valuable source of forage

Red clover is another perennial legume commonly used in UK farming systems. It has a deeper root system than white clover and can help improve soil structure and reduce erosion.

It is a valuable source of forage and can be used as a high-quality hay or silage crop. It can also be used as green manure, providing important nutrients and organic matter when incorporated into the soil.

Did you know that red clover tends to fix between 150 and 250 kg N/ha per year? Red clover/ryegrass swards can also produce 10–14 t DM/ha per year

Including clover in pasture seed mixes can help improve the nutritional quality of the forage available to livestock. This can lead to improved weight gain, milk production, and reproductive performance.

It can also extend the grazing season as it can grow and produce forage late into the season and improve the overall productivity of the pasture. Clover is particularly valuable during the mid to late season when grass growth starts to fall away.

Overall, including white and red clovers in UK farming systems can improve soil health and fertility and provide valuable forage for livestock.

They are a key component of sustainable agriculture and can reduce the environmental impact of farming while supporting more resilient and healthy food systems.

However, like all crops, they need to be managed correctly. Flexibility and willingness to adapt to the conditions are important when managing grass-clover swards.

Good grazing management is also important for increased persistence and production of white clover in grazed swards.

Further information

Listen to our podcast on clover establishment and management

Establishing and growing clover