Clovers: Seeding Year Management
Lime and fertilizer needs for all clovers should be determined by soil test. For best results, the soil pH at establishment should be between 6.0 and 7.0. Starter fertilizer applications of up to 20-60-20 per acre are desirable for clovers seeded on a prepared seedbed. Plant nutrients recommended in excess of this amount should be incorporated into the seedbed. Winter small grains seeded to clovers should not be topdressed with nitrogen. In the absence of a soil test, refer to the typical plant nutrient recommendations listed in Table 1.2-5.
Clovers can be seeded with hand seeders in winter grains early in the spring on soils honeycombed with frost. White clover has been established in pure grass pastures by grazing animals on white clover in the seed stage and then turning the animals into the pure grass pasture. Clover seed is dispersed in the manure. Clovers, especially red clover, also may be established using a no-till seeder and are the easiest legumes to establish using no-till techniques. They also can be seeded in April to early May, either alone or with spring oats as a companion crop, on a firm, well-prepared seedbed using conventional methods. If oats are used, reduce the seeding rate by 30 percent.
Band seeding no deeper than ¼ inch is an excellent method of seeding. Band seeding may reduce recommended clover seeding rates by one-third. Seed alone or with small grain companion crops. Press wheels, used in conjunction with band seeding, provide additional stand insurance. To ensure a firm seedbed when the seedbed is dry and press wheels are not used, cultipack before and after seeding in the same direction as band seeding.
Fluid seeding—distributing seed in a carrier of water or fertilizer solution—is a new technique generally limited to forage legumes. Because it requires special equipment for good seed suspension and distribution, custom application is recommended. Fluid seeding is a broadcast method, so prepare the seedbed as you would for conventional seeding, and cultipack after seeding.
Seeding rates necessary for successful stands are related to the condition of the seedbed and method of seeding. For suggested seeding rates, see “Forage Selection and Seeding Rates,” below.
Use preinoculant seed or inoculate seed with proper inoculant. If seed is preinoculated, look for the expiration date on the tag to see if reinoculation is needed. Reinoculation also may become necessary if seed is not used soon after purchase. Proper inoculation techniques are described in Agronomy Facts 11: Inoculation of Forage and Grain Legumes.
Some lots of seed are treated with Apron (metalaxyl) fungicide to protect against seedling diseases. This fungicide has been shown to protect seedlings against Phytophthora and Pythium, which often cause problems in wetter soils.
Under favorable growing conditions, spring-seeded red clover without a companion crop and with chemical weed control may be harvested twice during the seeding year. Make the first cutting by August 1, before full bloom. A second cutting or grazing may be made about September 15 if moisture is adequate.
Red clover seeded with a companion crop usually can be harvested once during the seeding year between August 15 and September 15, before full bloom. Clipping or grazing red clover stands between mid-August and mid-September of the seeding year helps to maintain better stands into the following harvest season. If red clover is allowed to reach full bloom or a later stage in the seeding year, a serious stand reduction may result. For further information on red clover cutting management, refer to Agronomy Facts 7: Cutting Management of Alfalfa, Red Clover, and Birdsfoot Trefoil, available from your local county extension office.