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Purchase improved clovers for frost seeding now

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by Steve Musen

Forage legumes are extremely valuable in forage-livestock production because they offer several ways to enhance economic sustainability. In association with special types of bacteria on their roots, they offer biological nitrogen fixation, thus reducing or eliminating the cost of nitrogen fertilizer. When grown with grasses, they often increase forage yield (especially as compared to grass receiving little nitrogen fertilizer), and extend the grazing season. Most importantly, legumes generally provide higher forage quality than grasses, thus improving nutritional status and performance of livestock. Legumes have attained “superstar” status because they have so much to offer. They should be regularly grown whenever feasible.
Adding white and red clover to Kentucky pastures and hayfields is an excellent way to improve forage quality, forage yield, reduce fescue toxicity, and provide free nitrogen through N fixation. Frost seeding in mid-February is usually considered the ideal time, but anytime in February is ok and even late January. The important thing is to have the seed on the ground when there are still 4-6 weeks of potential below freezing temperatures to allow sufficient “frost heaving” so the seed will be buried.
Right now is the time to buy clover seed of improved varieties. If you wait until mid-February the best varieties may be sold out. Go to the “2016 Long-Term Summary Report” at: http://www2.ca.uky.edu/agcomm/pubs/PR/PR720/PR720.pdf to choose the best varieties. For example, page 9 shows the highest yielding white clover varieties and page 7 shows the varieties that have the best tolerance to grazing. With white clover, many producers choose a variety that shows both good grazing tolerance and high yield. Variety choice definitely makes a difference.