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Successful clover growing? Here's how!

Clover is a wonderful crop to grow in combination with grass. It delivers extra protein, you can reduce your applications of artificial fertiliser and your cows just love it. Growing clover is not complicated, but you need to get a number of things right.

Sow between 15 March and 15 September

Clover establishes best between 15 March and 15 September. Sowing in early spring is not preferable. It's best to sow clover after an early arable crop, such as cereals or seed potatoes. This gives the crop time to develop well before winter and it will be less vulnerable to weed pressure. Clover needs water during germination, much more than grass, so it is important to sow clover when you know that rain is due. Time the moment of sowing to coincide with the right expected weather conditions.

Check the soil acidity

Clover does not like acid soil. This inhibits growth. A pH of 5.2 to 5.5 is optimal for sandy soil, a pH of 6 to 6.5 is ideal for clay soil. If you take a soil sample, you will know precisely how much lime the plot needs. Also pay attention to the soil nitrogen supplying capacity. A value below 150 is ideal for clover! Clover establishes best in a nitrogen-poor soil. For this reason, you can decide to stop fertilising the plot temporarily around the time of sowing grass/clover.

Mix, mix and mix again

Clover and grass seed have a different size and weight, which means they can separate in the seeder. Good mixing is key to spreading and distributing the clover well through your meadow. Mix the seed for a maximum of 1 ha. When sowing white clover, use a seed rate of 2 to 5 kg per hectare and 5 to 10 kg per hectare for red clover. With late sowing, increase the quantity by 1 to 2 kg.

Do not sow too deep

Clover seed is finer than grass seed. For good emergence, do not sow clover deeper than 2 cm. The optimal sowing depth for clover is 0.5 to 1 cm. After sowing, you can roll the soil with a Cambridge type roller to encourage optimal germination.

Select the clover mixture that suits you!

There are several clover mixtures. Each clover has its own specific traits. So, select the clover that best suits your wishes and plots. A rule of thumb: red clover is suitable for cutting, white clover for grazing.

 

Click here for an overview of our clover mixtures.

Treat red and white clover differently

Red clover and white clover can be encouraged to grow in different ways.

  • Small-leaved white meadow clover can be tightly grazed and frequently cut. Tight grazing or cutting is necessary to prevent shading as clover needs plenty of sunlight.
  • Red clover thrives well at a longer height after cutting (7-8 cm) and with preferably a not too light cut. Once a year you can harvest a heavy cut: usually later in the year when the red clover is flowering sufficiently. However, a too heavy cut will increase the risk of woody purple stalks with a moderate feed value.
  • The share of clover decreases if red clover is grazed for longer than three days in succession. So, if you intend to graze the meadows, always select a mixture with white clover (Quartet).

Can I overseed clover? Yes, you can!

Clover can be overseeded in an existing meadow. A low-cost way to get more protein from your own land.

Cut the grass short
The main tip when overseeding clover in an existing plot? Cut the grass short! This means the grass needs longer to recover and regrow. Sowing the clover seeds at a shallow depth (3 mm), in the tightly cut sward, will give you the best results. The best way to overseed is using an interrow cultivator or a torsion weeder. If there are a lot of bare patches in the meadow, it is best to add 10 kg of grass seed to ensure these patches are quickly covered.

Finally: the finishing touch

Young clover plants need some time to establish. A good start is therefore definitely half the work.

Within two months after sowing: cut or graze
If you cut or graze the meadow within two months after sowing, plenty of sunlight will reach the young clover plants and they will grow well.

Limit fertiliser applications with autumn sowing
This will prevent the grass from becoming dominant and crowding out the clover so it stops growing or disappears. Clover needs sunlight to develop well.

Mechanical weed control
As the capacity for weed control is limited in a meadow with grass and clover, mechanical weed control is the best option. Chemicals are permitted but have a limited result or need a long time to produce a good result.

Adapt nitrogen applications                                                                                                                                 

Clover does not like nitrogen. Therefore, apply a minimum of artificial fertiliser and limit your applications of slurry to about 2/3 of a normal rate and only fertilise in the spring. Clover does need potassium, which is a good fertiliser to apply in summer. You can create a good grass and clover meadow by adapting how much slurry is applied to suit the percentage of clover!

Avoid quality losses when ensiling
When harvesting, shake or create windrows at a low RPM to avoid damaging the fragile clover leaves, as the leaves have a high nutritional value and contain a lot of protein. Never shake dry crops. This will cause unnecessary losses. As a grass-clover mix is often a more protein-rich crop, conserving it is more complex than a customary grass-only crop. A silage additive ensures better conservation and maintains the protein quality.