GETCLOVERINBYMID-AUGUST FOR BEST RESULTS
ACHIEVING the best results when establishing clover means it must be sown by mid-August.
Otherwise its stolon development can be poor, warned Ian Rhodes of the Institute of Grassland and Environmental Research, at a Newton Rigg College, Practice into Profit open day.
"Its essential to achieve a vigorous network of stolon development within the clover part of the growing sward. While a delayed sowing date should not directly affect germination, it will have an impact on stolon development and ultimately lead to a low percentage of clover becoming established."
Dr Rhodes said that good establishment of clover still presents a challenge to many producers: A firm seed-bed and shallow sowing are key factors that help achieve a good take and a healthy sward.
"But its important to recognise the adverse effect on developing clover caused by shading from more rapidly growing grass varieties.
"Clover is very susceptible to shading, so grass should not be allowed to get away or the clover will suffer."
Dr Rhodes stressed that stolon survival during winter determines annual clover yield.
"What the farmer sees as poor growth in spring is actually low yield caused by winter kill. But new varieties of white clover, such as AberCrest and AberHerald, have improved hardiness to cold, coupled with active leaf expansion at low temperatures."
New MAFF research into red clover should meet the surge of interest from grassland farmers, he added.
"Red clover capable of producing a high protein forage with a yield potential of 14t of dry matter/ha is an attractive proposition but the crops persistence – of two or three years – is a handicap.
"Producers expecting a more productive life from red clover simply have to live in hope. But the new research programme will be concentrating on improving persistence levels."
• Sow by mid-August.
• Shallow drilling.
• Avoid grass shading.
Stolon development is poor when clover is not established by mid-August, says Ian Rhodes.