Maintaining White Clover in a Sward

White-clover-in-a-swardThe most essential requirement for maintaining clover in a sward is to make certain there is a adequate number of white clover plants is established during sowing.

A successful clover establishment is still dependant on a good initial sowing rate. A seed mixture containing 2-3kg /ha of clover with 18 to 24kg/ha of perennial ryegrass should be the aim.

Clover requires sowing at no more than 10mm. (onto a Firm and Fine seed bed).

Target of 150 white clover plants per square metre, three months after sowing. At twelve months developing to a 30% ground cover.

Early season sowing is best, as this allows the plant to build up reserves for the winter. Rather than a backend sowing.

Direct sowing rather than undersown with a cereal.

Once established white clover needs good soil fertility, this is very important as clover has a small root system compared with grass. If soil nutrients are deficient the white clover roots are less able to take up sufficient nutrients to support growth as the root systems have less direct contact with the soil.

Aim for a pH of 6.0 (and above) and soil indices for P and K of 2 (and above).

An important factor controlling the population of clover in a sward is the cutting and grazing regimes carried out. Stolon branching and growing point density is determined by the amount and quality of light. Therefore an open grass sward is best, however overgrazing has to be avoided as this will reduce the clover plants. This is why, for grazed only fields, especially by sheep, the use of small leaved clovers is recommended.

Suggested strategy for Improving White clover in a sward.

1.  Graze in the autumn or winter to remove proud grass. This will minimise shading of the white clover stolons.

2.  Close grazing the sward in the spring. This will minimise the shading of the stolons when the grass is growing faster than the clover. The extra light on to the clover plant will stimulate the formation of new stolon branches.

3.  During the summer a silage or hay cut will encourage the clover plants to extend the stolon network.

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