Kite Consultant, Paul Macer, takes a look at clover.
Clovers account for around 90% of all the legumes in the UK as they can be grown over a wider range of soil types than some of the more specialist crops. They also have the advantage of being grown either as a single crop or in a mixed sward depending on specific requirements, although to influence crop production and animal performance IBERS (formerly IGER) suggest that a minimum content of 30% is required.
In terms of their Nitrogen fixing ability, this will range from around 100kg N/ha when sown with grass and where N fertiliser still plays a part up to 400kg N/ha fixed from a pure stand with ample supplies of P & K. Choosing the right type of clover for the situation is vital if you are going to see the maximum benefit. In a cutting situation red clover is the preferred choice as it can compete with the grass more effectively and can make a very high yielding, protein rich silage whilst white clover is better for a grazing situation due to its more prostrate growth habit.
Clover can be sown as part of normal reseed, but is also now increasingly being introduced into swards by overseeding. Creating a shallow tilth within an existing sward with a grass harrow and then seeding into this has proved highly effective as long as all the other details such as pH, soil indices, pest and disease control and drainage have been looked after. No matter how you plant the seeds it is vital that they are not planted too deep. The following table shows the effect of sowing depth on germination.
Source: Cotswold Seeds
The final requirement is good seed to soil contact and a fine, firm seedbed. Even when you think that you have got it right roll the field again.
If you are thinking about reseeding or upgrading your grass leys speak to your consultant about the various options available and take a serious look at what role clover could play in your grassland policy.