Winter annual clovers have a great advantage in the realms of cover cropping and forage – they grow more high quality forage and fix more nitrogen than perennials in a shorter time span. All of them are high in protein. Annual clovers grow faster and contribute unique advantages to the rotation.
Remember to inoculate any untreated seed with clover inoculant. Treated seed includes inoculant.
- Best productivity on well-drained soils
- Less productive in the fall than crimson clover, but grows six weeks longer in the spring
- Developed specifically for the Deep South
- Helpful for grazing season extension in the spring
- Mix with small grain or ryegrass
- Does not tolerate acidic or low-fertility soils
- Some susceptibility to crown and stem rot
- Little threat of bloat
- Can be quite competitive in spring with other species – graze or cut frequently if you don’t want other species drowned out
- Excellent reseeding potential
Why you might choose it: to fill in the spring forage gap with an aggressive legume before warm season grasses start yielding. If Arrowleaf begins to dominate the stand, there is little threat of bloat.
- Can boost production on thinning alfalfa stand
- Can be used as a summer annual, or winter annual in zones 7a and further south (Berseem is the least winter-hardy annual clover)
- Tolerates wet ground
- Prefers slightly alkaline loam and silty soils but grows in all soil types except sands. Tolerates saline conditions better than alfalfa and red clover.
- Often used as a cover crop to fix nitrogen and attract pollinators with blooms. If grown to maturity, can fix 100-125 lbs N per acre.
- Can be mixed with alfalfa or small grains
- Little or no risk of bloat
- Not resistant to root-knot nematode
- Growth reaches 18-30 inches, with small taproot 4-6 inches deep
- Ready to cut in about 60 days, with cuttings possible every 30 days in spring or summer.
Why you might choose it: You need a legume for wetter soils with great warm weather production and high forage quality.
Crimson clover is an excellent forage or cover crop to use as a green manure or to attract pollinators. Crimson clover is well suited to mixes with small grains and other winter annuals.
- Has taller flower stems, grows more upright and rapidly, and produces larger seed than other clovers.
- Fits as a winter annual or early spring seeded crop (the best option in this scenario is frost-seeding.)
- Good for hay and grazing
- Spring blooms are very attractive to bees and other pollinators
- Best winter survival in colder regions when planted in combination with a small grain like triticale
- Blooms earlier than hairy vetch. Most of it’s nitrogen-fixing potential will be reached by time of bloom, which makes it a great cover crop to fit in rotation before corn.
- Higher than average shade tolerance – well-suited to interseeding in corn as a cover crop
Why you might choose it: You’re looking for a winter-hardy legume cover crop to give you a high-nitrogen green manure or residue, and maybe you also want to graze it and let it bloom in the spring to attract beneficial insects for the next crop. Crimson clover gives you this flexibility, and if used as a cover crop it’s easy to kill and manage in the spring.
- Small seeds are great for frost-seeding and broadcasting
- Persists and recovers well under grazing pressure
- Each plant forms a multi-branched rosette
- Best winterhardiness of the annual clovers
- Can survive water-logged soils and short-term flooding
- Spring growth outcompetes weeds
- Multiple cuttings or grazings into summer are possible
- Attracts bees and beneficial insects
- Deep tap root scavenges moisture and breaks up soil
- Great for wildlife mixtures
- Fills in wet areas where alfalfa dies
Why you might choose Fixation: You want maximum biomass, winter-hardiness, or leafy forage quality from your clover, or you may be looking for a legume that can handle wetter areas.