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Red Clover (Trifolium pratense)

Plant Characteristics:  This a short-lived perennial with about 2 years in upper central and northern part of Mississippi.  In the southern part of the state it becomes an annual winter forage.  Red clover is characterized by oval hairy trifolialate leaves and a white V mark.  Flowers are pin to dark red forming a large cluster.

Establishment:  Red clover tolerates wet areas and soil acidity very good.  It can withstand more shading in the seedling stage than most other legumes, making it easy to establish in grass sods. It can be established in mixtures with tall fescue, orchardgrass, dallisgrass, and johnsongrass.  Seed should be planted between Aug. 15 to Sept. 30.  in prepared seed bed at a rate of 6 to lb/ac at depth of  1/4 to 1/2 inch.  If seed is broadcasted, rates should 12 to 15 lb/ac. Established pastures should be overseeded between October 15 and November 20th.  When planting clover with grass mixtures use a rate of 4 to 8 lb/ac.  Susceptibility to powdery mildew, southern anthracnose, and yellow mosaic virus is higher than other clovers.

Fertilization: Soil pH should be maintained above 5.5.  Fertility treatments are best recommended on the basis of a soil test.  In the absence of a soil test, use a fertilizer treatment of about 20 lb N/ac, 60 lb P/ac and 40 lb K/ac at seeding time when seed are drilled.  When red clover is seeded on small grains or ryegrass for winter forage, about 60 lb P/ac should be applied at the time of seeding. or mix seed and fertilizer together and apply them at the same time.  In the absence of a soil test, apply a mixed fertilizer such as a 0-30-90 each year to red clover fields used for hay.

Grazing/Hay Management:  Red clover is effective as a pasture legume and for hay.  Yield production ranges from 2 to 4 lb/ac.  Most productivity occurs between March and June. It should be used on rotational grazing due to low tolerance to grazing pressure.  Red clover seeded in winter or early spring may be grazed the first summer. Removing the forage with three grazings will result in better third-year stands than four grazing harvests.  It should be cut at bloom stage to maintain good hay quality.    Initial harvest 60-70 days after seeding and subsequent harvest on a 30-35 day interval will generally allow for three harvests during the seeding year.  Rest the pasture in September and early October.  If used for hay or hay and seed, two cuts or harvests are desirable. If it blooms before Sept. 10, livestock should be removed. This will allow to reseed and root reserves to accumulate for building up winter survival and disease resistance.  The most practical way to prevent this is to graze during August.

Forage Quality:  Clovers has a good forage quality when cut at 50% bloom with CP ranging from 12 to 16%, ADF (28 to 38%), NDF (38 to 50%), TDN (59 to 67%), and RFV (110 to 162%).

Varieties/Cultivars:  Some commercial varieties include Bytown, Florex, Prosper I, Tristan, and Redmor.

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Portrait of Dr. Rocky Lemus
Extension/Research Professor
Forage Establishment, Grazing Systems and Management, Hay Production, Forage Fertility, Forage Quali