Robert Eder says he's no better than anybody else at establishing kura clover — he's just never given up.
“A lot of producers might seed it once and, if it doesn't turn out, they quit trying,” says Eder. “But I've seeded it several ways at different times. If one establishment method doesn't work, I try others.”
Eder and his wife, Barbara, own Pine Dell Dairy near New London, WI. They've been rotationally grazing their 150 dairy cows since 1992.
Kura clover was introduced about the time they started grazing. In addition to its reputation for stand persistence, yield, quality and compatibility with pasture grasses, it's known to be tough to establish.
Eder's been thrilled with kura's benefits, most notably profitable milk production and impressive heifer gains.
“When it works, it really works,” he says. “Kura clover has slender stems with lots of leaves. It's very high in quality and digestibility. It's a good source of nitrogen and increases pasture quality, too. Plus, once you get it going, you have it forever.”
He likes kura in a mixture with three grasses — orchardgrass, festolium and reed canarygrass, and two legumes — white clover and alfalfa.
“I figure my bases are covered if the kura doesn't catch,” he says.
Eder says there's a learning curve involved to get kura clover established. “It takes some extra effort.”
Paul Peterson, University of Minnesota extension forage agronomist, concurs.
“There are still some real challenges, but I think we've made a lot of headway toward increasing the chances of success,” says Peterson. “If growers take care in the establishment methods they use, they can get good stands.”
While Eder has established the clover under both conventional and no-till situations, he prefers conventional tillage because of the seedbed it creates.
“In some ways the art of preparing a good seedbed has been lost, and I think that's why some producers have had trouble getting kura established,” says Eder.
He cultipacks twice after seeding. “That extra pass or two across the field is going to pay you back for many years, so it's definitely worth the time.”
He prefers to seed in August.
“In my experience, kura germinates best in warmer soils,” he says. “The seedlings get established a little bit in the fall. Then they have a better chance of competing against the other species the following spring.”
He seeds 7 lbs/acre of kura clover and 20-27 lbs of the other species. During the first full year, the kura clover is sparse. But it comprises up to 50% of his stands after it gets well-established.
Peterson favors spring seeding if producers are going into existing sod they're trying to keep alive.
“But if you're going into a killed sod or if you're doing a direct seeding, August is a good time because you have less weed competition,” he says.
Before no-tilling kura into live sod, suppress existing vegetation, says Peterson.
“Apply a light application of Roundup when the grass is 4-6" tall,” he advises. “Then drill the kura seed into the sod within a few days of that herbicide application. This step gives the kura plants a chance to take hold.”
For best results, use inoculated seed of newer varieties.
“Many of the initial frustrations in trying to get kura started were because of Rhizo — an early variety,” says Peterson. “The newer ones, Endura and Cossack, are much better.
“It's also important to inoculate kura clover with the correct rhizobial inoculant,” he adds. “That enables the plants to fix nitrogen.”
Apply some nitrogen in split applications during the first year.
“The nitrogen gives a boost to the overall productivity of the mixture in the seeding year without a negative effect on kura establishment,” says Peterson. “But be sure to mow or graze regularly before the grasses overcome the developing kura seedlings.”