Spring is quickly approaching and with that comes “fields of green.” Many producers grow legumes as part of their cool-season forage mixtures. When asked about what types of clovers producers grow on their farms, the most common answers are white (a perennial) and crimson (an annual) clover.
But what about red clover? Red clover is considered a biennial in the Deep South, where its lifespan in perennial grass stands may be one to two years. Red clover is not as widely utilized but comes to the forefront of the list as a good option for most of our forage systems in the region.
Red clover has strong spring yield production, which can extend into the early summer months. In an overseeding study conducted in the Alabama Black Belt soil region, we observed red clover presence as up to 30% of a warm-season perennial grass stand through late June. This provides significant biomass, quality and nitrogen contributions to perennial grass stands.
Red clover can be the sole legume in the system or can be blended with other clovers to provide variation in growing-season length and diversity within the forage stand. One combination that stands out is a mixture of both white and red clover at establishment.
Once clovers are established as part of the stand, the spring months are the time when we really begin to see them flourish. Although we often associate clovers as our “lucky charm” with St. Patrick’s Day, clovers can carry us into the early summer months and benefit our forage production systems.