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Self Re-seeding Potential for Annual Clovers

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January 10, 2019

Announcer: Farm and Family is a production of the Mississippi State University Extension Service. 

Amy Myers: Today, we're talking about self-reseeding potential for annual clovers. Hello, I'm Amy Taylor, and welcome to Farm and Family. Today we're speaking with Rocky Lemus, Mississippi State University Extension Service Forage Specialist. 

Rocky, why are annual clovers important to winter grazing in Mississippi? 

Rocky Lemus: Amy, annual clovers, such as arrowleaf clover, crimson, ball clover and berseem are consistent legumes widely used in [adapting 00:00:35] Mississippi. They improve forage growth distribution, increase forage yield and quality while reducing nitrogen fertilizer needs. Clovers also aid in extending the growing season, thus reducing the cost of winter supplementation. Generally they are digestible and contain high levels of crude protein, which lead to increased animal performance and profitability. 

Amy Myers: Now, what's a disadvantage for producers who want to maintain annual clovers for several years?

Rocky Lemus: Growing clovers with patchy grass has greatly enhanced it's cost effectiveness in forage livestock production, but in some instances, I can see they are undependable in their ability to reseed. The dependence of natural reseeding might not be the most practical approach because of the increase risk of establishing failure. To establish adequate [inaudible 00:01:25] relying on natural reseeding depends on favorable environmental conditions, along with grazing management practice in late spring to enhance clover seed production. Most clovers that have reseeding potential will also produce a large percentage of hard seeds.

Amy Myers: There's also something called hard seed. Tell me, what is a hard seed?

Rocky Lemus: A hard seed is a seed that does not swell or germinate within the established period of viability. A hard seed has a tough impenetrable coat that don't allow water or air to reach the embryo, which delays germination for longer periods of time. Hard seed may survive passage to the digestive tracts of animals and can remain viable in soil for more than 50 years. 

The quantity of a hard seed depends on the conditions that existed during the seed formation and maturation. For example, the amount of hard seed during drought conditions can increase by 40% to 60%. If we look at some of the clovers that we have in Mississippi, for example arrowleaf clover has a hard seed production that ranges from 75% to 90%. Ball clover hard seed content is about 60% to 80%, and it will produce some flowers even under close grazing conditions. On the other hand, berseem clover hard seed percentage is only about 10% with very low reseeding potential. Crimson clover has a seed percentage average about 35% after seed maturation, but decreases to 10% ninety days later. 

Amy Myers: What management strategies should be implemented to reseeding?

Rocky Lemus: Grazing until early April often results in more seed production compared to no grazing at all. This is due to heavy dense growth resulting in large plants, matted forages, and reduced numbers of blooms. 

To allow adequate reseeding, remove livestock from the paddocks, or reduce stock rate in mid April to early May, depending on the location in the state where the clovers start to flower or bloom. 

During the four to seven week flowering period, seeds mature in the bottom of the seed heads first. Some mature seed should be present by early to mid May in most locations.

Amy Myers: What about mixtures? What approach needs to be taken with clover mixtures?

Rocky Lemus: Keep in mind that when having clover mixtures in the same pasture, flower production might be varied due to maturity rate or the species. It might be necessary to keep the animals off the pasture for a longer period of time. Difference in seed and flower production among species can range from 20% to 40%. Once the seed heads have matured, livestock could be returned to grazing those areas. Some clovers with low growth actually can tolerate close continuous grazing, such as ball clover, and still have optimum seed production, resulting in greater opportunity to reseed in pasture than clover species with more upright growth. 

Amy Myers: Where can we go for more information about self reseeding potential for annual clovers? 

Rocky Lemus: They can visit the msucares website, and refer to the January 2013 newsletter.

Amy Myers: Thank you so much. Today, we've been speaking with Rocky Lemus, Mississippi State University Extension Service Forage Specialist. I'm Amy Taylor, and this has been Farm and Family. Have a great day. 

Announcer: Farm and Family is a production of the Mississippi State University Extension Service.

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