Clovers: Species and Varieties
Red clover is a short-lived, relatively easy-to-establish perennial legume that grows on soils too acid or too wet for alfalfa. It is one of the easiest legumes to establish using no-till techniques.
Disease resistance is important with red clover. In Pennsylvania, southern and northern anthracnose occur widely and may seriously reduce stand and yield of susceptible varieties. Several new red clover varieties now on the market offer added yield by having resistance or tolerance to one or both of these diseases.
For more detailed information about red clover production, refer to Agronomy Facts 21: Red Clover, also available from your county extension office.
White clover is a short-lived perennial with some reseeding capability. Ladino and Regal clovers are large white clovers, and Dutch or common white clover is a small type. Pure stands of ladino and other white clovers are not well suited for silage or hay because of their low-growing, leafy growth habit. However, they make high-quality pastures for livestock and do well in years with frequent rain (refer to “Pastures,” below, for more information). They have shallow root systems and lack sufficient drought tolerance to survive prolonged dry spells. Purchase certified seed to be certain of obtaining pure seed of the white clover variety desired.
For more detailed information about white clover production, refer to Agronomy Facts 22: White Clover, available from your local cooperative extension office.
Alsike clover is a short-lived perennial legume that grows on wet, acid soils. It is susceptible to the same diseases and insects that attack red and white clovers. Alsike clover growth is intermediate between red and white clover, growing tall enough to be cut for hay. It is less desirable where hot, dry summer conditions are common. Marketed seed is labeled only as alsike.
The cultivated sweet clovers, both yellow- and white-flowered types, typically are biennial. They are suitable for soil improvement and as nectar-producing plants for honey bees but generally are not grown for forage.