Establishing and managing white clover in the sward
As a forage, white clover is highly digestible with crude protein content averaging over 20%. But the most significant benefit of white clover is its ability to fix N from the atmosphere for use by neighbouring grasses in the sward
White clover is typically used in grazing mixtures and can significantly reduce the amount of artificial N fertiliser required over the growing season. Furthermore, it can improve the protein content and palatability of forage leading to improved animal performance.
The use of white clover in grass mixtures has the potential to offset up to 150kg N/ha per year in inorganic N fertiliser. With fertiliser prices increasing all the time, the incorporation of white clover into grass swards has the potential to greatly reduce the reliance on inorganic N fertiliser and increase the financial and environmental sustainability on farm level.
Achieving good white clover content across the farm should be a goal and should be carried out over a number of years.
A full reseed is the most reliable method of establishing white clover. However, as the options for post-emergence treatment become more limited, many farmers are choosing to oversow white clover into existing swards.
No matter what sowing method is used the 4 key principles of successful establishment and management of white clover should always be considered.
4 Key Principles of Growing White Clover
Ensure adequate soil P, K and pH status and sow seed no more than 1cm deep. Roll to ensure soil-seed contact.
Sow when soil is warm and there is some moisture – ideally April to May.
Over-sow at a rate of 2 – 2.5kg/acre (app 5kg/ha). Use small and medium-leaf varieties for grazing and large-leaf for cutting. See DLF white clover varieties here.
Over-sow after a tight grazing or silage cut so light can stimulate seedling growth. After sowing, graze for the following 3 rotations to establish adequate white clover content.