Clovers don't just add color to a grass pasture. These versatile legumes also fix nitrogen, improve forage quality and yield, and can help extend the grazing season.
Most importantly, clovers can add dollars to your livestock profits.
“One of the best ways to improve animal performance is to grow clovers with perennial grasses,” says extension forage specialist Don Ball with Auburn University.
“Not only do the legumes add nitrogen back into the soil, but a mix of grasses and legumes promotes better seasonal forage distribution and stability of the pasture,” adds Ann Blount, a University of Florida extension forage specialist.
Southeastern growers have several new varieties to consider. Some of the most promising ones are listed by Ball, Blount and Roger Gates. Gates, now at South Dakota State University, was, until recently, a USDA-ARS research agronomist in Tifton, GA.
White Clover — This trio of experts is enthusiastic about Durana and Patriot, primarily because of their improved persistence over current varieties.
“These new varieties promise to allow white clover stands to last longer when grown as a companion species with perennial grasses,” Ball says.
Durana looks especially persistent under harsh Lower South conditions. Patriot, a cross between Durana and a ladino variety, yields better than Durana but is slightly less persistent.
Gates cautions that a wait-and-see approach is needed to determine how the two varieties will perform in the Lower Coastal Plain. But, he says, “In the Upper Coastal Plain, these white clover varieties are going to be winners.”
Limited quantities of seed are available from Pennington Seed, Madison, GA.
Red Clover — Blount suggests utilizing red clover for winter and spring grazing. Among the promising new varieties are Cinnamon Plus, from Southern States and other cooperatives, and Redlan-Graze II, from America's Alfalfa.
“Both were selected for grazing tolerance and the results are pretty outstanding,” says Gates.
An experimental variety from the University of Florida, FLMR 7, has improved nematode and disease resistance and high, early forage yield. It has performed well in trials, too, Blount says.
Freedom, another new red clover, was developed primarily for hay production. The new variety has less pubescence than other varieties and thus field-dries faster. Developed at the University of Kentucky, it's sold by Barenbrug USA, Tangent, OR.
Arrowleaf Clover — At one time this was an important winter annual pasture legume in the Southeast, reports Ball. He says it hasn't been planted much in recent years due to its lack of disease tolerance, particularly to bean yellow mosaic virus. But the new variety Apache has better disease resistance and increased forage yields.
“I'm hopeful Apache will give us back the ability to use this species more widely in the Southeast,” Ball comments.
He suggests seeding arrowleaf clover with annual ryegrass for cool-season grazing.
Limited quantities of Apache seed are available from East Texas Seed Co., Tyler, TX.