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Topics : Species and Forage Variety Trials : Species Fact Sheets : Red Clover

Species: Red Clover

Additional red clover information via the Forage Information System (FIS)

Red Clover Establishment

Red clover can be established as a pure stand, with or without a companion crop, seeded with forage grass, or sod-seeded into a grass sod to improve the existing stand. Each situation has special requirements that should be considered.

Seeding red clover in the spring (April to early May) alone or with a spring oat companion crop in a conventionally prepared seed bed is common. Best clover stands result from seeding the oats at about 1.5 to 2 bushels per acre. Harvesting the oats early for silage is recommended because will greatly reduce the competition with the red clover. If the oats are harvested for grain, remove the straw so that it will not shade or suppress the red clover.

Red clover direct seeded in the spring without a companion crop, will yield less total forage than when seeded with a companion crop to be harvested as a forage. However, a larger portion of the forage will be red clover when seeded without the companion crop. Use of herbicides may be necessary when direct seeded red clover without a companion crop. Direct seedings of red clover can be made either by broadcast, band seeding or fluid seeding. The success of red clover establishment by the fluid seeding technique (planting in a carrier of water or fertilizer solution) is dependent on the preparation of firm and fine seed bed prior to seeding and cultipacking after seeding. Fluid seeding requires special equipment, therefore a custom applicator is recommended.

Red clover can be no-till seeded and is the easiest legume to establish using this method. Early spring seeding in winter grains or grass pastures when the soils are honeycombed from frost has also been successful.

Red clover should be seeded at a rate of 10 to 12 lb. per acre in pure stand and 6 to 8 lb. per acre when seeded with a forage grass. Best establishment occurs when red clover is not seeded deeper than 1/4 in.

To insure adequate nodulation, red clover seed should be inoculated just before seeding with Rhizobium trifolii bacteria and a sticking agent. Pre- inoculated seed should be kept in a cool, dark place to optimize survival of the nitrogen fixing bacteria. For additional information about nitrogen fixing bacteria or the inoculation process see Agronomy Facts 11: Inoculation of Forage and Grain Legumes.