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August 2012
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What is Clover? What are growth habits of clover? – Part 1

What is Clover?

• Clover is an economical alternative to manufactured nitrogen-based fertilizers.
• Clover provides plenty of the essential nitrogen needed for plant growth.
• As a legume, clover obtains nitrogen from the atmosphere and fixes it into the soil in organic forms for its own use as well as for the grass growing around it.
• This translates into economic savings for farmers.
• Plant clover to provide the nitrogen in the pasture instead of purchasing and applying nitrogen-based fertilizers.
• If 20 to 30 percent of the pasture is planted in clover, we can assume that amount of clover could fix 80 to 200 pounds of nitrogen per acre.
• This depends on growth conditions and the clover species.
• This is often enough nitrogen for the whole pasture.
• Clover often has a higher digestibility and contains more protein than grasses.
• It can improve animal performance when incorporated into pastures.
• Animals enjoy eating clover.
• It doesn’t have some of the risks to the environment that nitrogen-based fertilizers can have.
• Clovers and other legumes fix nitrogen into a stable form.
• This will not pollute surrounding areas.
• Manufactured nitrogen-based fertilizers often contain nitrogen in a very mobile form.
• This leads to significant losses if rainfall leaches soluble nitrogen into the groundwater.
• Some forms of nitrogen fertilizer, such as urea, will evaporate in hot weather, causing a loss of applied nitrogen.
• Nitrogen fixation in clover is not a rapid process.
• Clover can be seeded in spring or fall.
• After a soil test and once the proper pH is established, clover can be broadcast into existing grass stands easily.
• Clover will rapidly germinate and establish.
• The key is keeping the clover in the pasture by limiting overgrazing.
• Maintain a mixture of grass and clover in the pasture, with a combination of 20 percent to 30 percent clover and 70 percent to 80 percent grass.
• This amount of clover provides optimal animal performance and can generally fix enough nitrogen to meet the needs of clover and grass.
• Closely graze or clip pastures to reduce competition in an existing grass pasture.
• Allow clover to establish.
• Choose from a variety of annual and perennial clover species.
• Using red and white perennial clovers which do not have to be seeded as often.
• Clover has a high soluble protein level and breaks down quickly in the rumen.
• This can form an emulsion that prevents belching to relieve gas pressure.
• If gas is not released, the resultant bloating can be serious, even proving fatal.

Growth Habits of Clover

• One of the big differences between ryegrasses and clover is the effect that soil temperature has on growth.
• Substantial amounts of grass growth commence when temperatures at 10 cm depth in the soil reach around 6°C.
• The growth of clover does not really take off until soil temperatures reach around 9°C.
• This means that in spring there are generally no substantial amounts of grass growth.
• Accumulation of substantial amounts of clover does not begin until late-April.
• Clover makes up less than 5 per cent of the total herbage in spring and does not affect spring growth.
• Clover is a relatively shallow rooted species and therefore does well on fertile soils.
• As these soils maintain a relatively high soil moisture status during the summer months.
• It does not tolerate being water-logged very well.
• Clover does not do well on very wet soils.
• Also poaching damage on wet soils can destroy clover stolons.
• This causes the rapid loss of clover from the sward.
• The Rhizobia bacteria associated with clover perform best in soils with a high lime status.
• Clover does not grow very well in acid and, in particular, peat soils.
• Clover can be expected to perform best and to make the greatest contribution to pasture productivity on medium to free-draining loam soils.
• Grassland on these soils can be grazed over a long grazing season because they are less prone to poaching damage.
• Clover also makes a very valuable contribution to grassland productivity on heavier and wetter moderately drained soils.
• Clover is not perennial or permanent in grassland in the same sense as perennial ryegrass.
• Once introduced into a sward it generally has a life-span of three to eight years.
• The loss of clover is a slow decline.

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