31 May 1996

IGERcalls a toast to new cocktails

MAXIMUM benefits from modern clover varieties come from their inclusion as blends in the seeds mixture.

Clover cocktails were recommended strongly by Dr Ian Rhodes, head of the Institute of Grassland and Environmental Research (IGER) legumes division, Welsh Plant Breeding Station, Aberystwyth, at Grassland 96.

"All our research shows that the correct use of white clovers, compatible with each other and also the grasses in a sward, is the best way to reduce financial and environmental costs. This in turn depends on choosing the correct clovers for particular enterprises.

"Blends give you the best chance to make the most of the modern varieties available and producers should break free from the old habit of just accepting an unspecified amount of white clover in their seeds mix. The correct choice of clovers is just as important and profitable as choosing the right grass and cereal varieties to suit the farm conditions."

Dr Rhodes stressed that the performance of modern IGER-bred strains was way ahead of older and much more cold susceptible varieties. Tests on five key sites in Finland, Switzerland, the UK, France and Germany had shown that the variety AberHerald yielded 2.7 times as much on average as the old New Zealand-bred Grasslands Huia, and produced four times the yield in early spring.

The variety AberVantage was performing well with companion grasses and encouraging an extra 2t/ha (0.8t/acre) grass production, compared with other clovers in the sward.

"For maximum benefit aim for a minimum of 10% and a maximum of 30% white clovers in the sward. This delivers higher-quality forage, improved digestibility and protein content, the latter now of increasing importance in the light of current purchased protein prices. And dont forget that a sward with 30% clover content can deliver the equivalent of 150kg of free nitrogen fertiliser/ha through atmospheric fixation," said Dr Rhodes. These benefits could be achieved by the inclusion of 2kg of improved clovers in a seeds mixture with 25kg of grass seeds.

A further benefit from clover was its mobility in the sward. Clover stolons could colonise bare patches, left after last years prolonged summer drought followed by a long, hard winter.

"By comparison, grass just sits there," said Dr Rhodes.

Clover breeding at IGER is funded by MAFF and the Germinal Group.

Constituents of the latest blends are multiplied in New Zealand and will be available for the 1996 reseeding season, stated Clive Marlow, marketing manager with British Seed Houses, Avonmouth, Bristol, part of the Germinal Group.

Clover cocktails on demonstration plot display included:

&#8226 AberPasture including AberCrest, AberVantage and AberHerald, suitable for cattle and sheep rotational grazing.

&#8226 AberDairy including AberVantage and AberHerald for high production under grazing and cutting management.

&#8226 AberSheep containing AberCrest and AberHerald, designed to tolerate hard, close grazing and with excellent cold hardiness and persistence on upland sites.

Dr Ian Rhodes, head of Legumes, IGER, Aberystwyth and Clive Marlow, manager of British Seed Houses, Bristol, explained the benefits of including a cocktail of improved white clovers in the seed mixture.