If first-year reports from growers are an accurate gauge, berseem clover works well as a companion crop for irrigated alfalfa -- at least in some areas.
The annual legume can bolster forage yield and quality when seeded with oats or pasture grasses, too.
But it doesn't do well on dryland, and most growers who seeded berseem to thicken old alfalfa stands were disappointed.
Ninety-two growers from Pennsylvania to New Mexico were surveyed about their first- year results with berseem clover. Here are the situations where it did and didn't work.
This author discouraged clients from planting berseem clover as a companion crop with newly seeded alfalfa. I thought the clover would adversely compete with the alfalfa plants.
In higher altitude, shorter season areas I was wrong! A grower near Hamer, ID, elevation 5,200', took three full cuttings of new-seeding alfalfa, and said the berseem clover added greatly to tonnage. He seeded 15 lbs of alfalfa seed and 5 lbs of berseem/acre.
(Note: Forage agronomists in most states discourage growers from using berseem clover as a companion crop for alfalfa.)
Without exception, growers who planted berseem with oats said they would do it again. Not only did the clover add tonnage to the oat-hay yield, it greatly enhanced its feed value and thus its dollar value.
Irrigators who seeded berseem with their new grass plantings also were happy. They reported increased tonnage and feed value, and some harvested multiple cuttings, depending on location.
However, growers who tried berseem clover on dryland were generally disappointed.
For example, a Hinckley, MN, grower reported that alfalfa varieties seemed to tolerate the dry periods while the berseem virtually disappeared.
When farmers added berseem to thin alfalfa stands, they spoke of three mistakes.
1) Drilling berseem into older, compacted alfalfa fields was not successful.
A Rachel, NV, farmer reported a big difference where disc openers crossed each other on field edges and loosened the seedbed. If he plants berseem again, he'll prepare a good seedbed.
2) Growers in areas where two cuttings per year are the norm and growers in high- altitude, colder areas complained about not having enough growing season to maximize results. Very few said they would use berseem in this application again.
3) Growers who interplanted it into older alfalfa in late spring complained that the alfalfa outcompeted the young berseem plants. Then harvest equipment damaged the berseem stand at first cutting because the clover plants were too young.
In summary, berseem clover is an annual, non-bloating legume that closely resembles alfalfa. Berseem, being native to Egypt, responds well to heat and is more tolerant to alkali than alfalfa.
In cool weather, the clover is sluggish. As the growing season warms, its growth rate can be 1 1/2-2 times that of alfalfa.
Berseem can't grow well in a poorly prepared seedbed. It probably will never catch on in dryland areas unless rains are adequate and timely. It can take light freezes, but not as much as alfalfa.
If one plans to add berseem to worn-out alfalfa stands, it will probably work well if:* Interseeding is done early in the spring.* A vigorous seedbed p reparation is done to hold back alfalfa.
* The growing season is adequate (stay out of cold areas).
For further information, contact Greenway Seed Co., Caldwell, ID, at 800-622-6837 or 208-454-8342.