Sweet Clover may be utilized
as good quality hay, somewhat comparable in palatability and
feeding value to alfalfa.
The second years growth
produces coarse stems, and is high in moisture content. However,
the best use may be as a silage crop.
The best quality silage is made
when the crop is cut before the plant begins to bloom. To provide
excellent grazing during the spring and summer of second year.
There are two species of biennial Sweet Clovers: yellow and white.
White Sweet Clover grows two
to seven feet tall. Yellow Sweet Clover grows one-and-one-half
to five feet tall.
The yellow type is finer stemmed,
has smaller leaves, and blooms 10-20 days earlier than the white
There are 10 to 96 florets per
bloom stem. One way to tell the difference between Sweet Clover
and alfalfa is that the Sweet Clover leaf is serrated around
the edge completely, whereas the alfalfa leaf is serrated only
on one-third to one-half of the margin nearest the tip.
Sweet Clover is very adaptable
to most soil types, but it requires a pH of 6.0 or higher and
has a higher calcium requirement.
Sweet Clover obtains phosphorus
from relatively unavailable soil phosphates, and will grow in
soils where alfalfa, red clover or ladino clover fail.
Sweet Clover will produce under
dry conditions. The Madrid variety is especially tolerant to
Sweet Clover can be planted from
February 15 to April 1.
Check with the Natural Resources
Conservation Service or University Extension for proper seeding
Plant seeds about one-half inch
deep with a grain drill, cultipacker seeder with a small-seed
attachment or by broadcasting. Inoculate the seed with Group
1 commercial inoculant.
Sweet Clover will provide its
best quality hay if mowed just as first blooms appear, usually
in May or June.
Livestock will learn to like
Sweet Clover if they are allowed to start grazing when the plants
are eight to ten inches tall.
Under a system of continuous
grazing, maintain a minimum average top growth of about four
With rotational grazing, the
plant may be grazed to a minimum average height of about three
inches. The grazing animals should be removed when this level
of usage is reached.
Forage should be allowed to make
a minimum average regrowth height of about six inches before
the animals are returned to the field. When this minimum height
is maintained for an extended period of time, the minimum regrowth
height should be about nine inches before the animals are returned
to the field.
These minimum grazing heights
pertain only to the growing season, when there is ample moisture
and fertility to generate adequate regrowth during the rest period.
Maintain a minimum height of four inches when the plant normally
becomes dormant, or when it quits growing.
Two or more fields or pastures
are needed for a rotational grazing system. However, this system
is generally more productive and manageable when three or more
grazing units are used to complete a grazing schedule. A 24-day
to 30-day rest normally is required, depending upon rainfall,
temperature, fertility, etc.
With a two-pasture system, graze
12 to 15 days and rest the pasture 12 to 15 days. With a three-pasture
system, allow the animals to graze eight to 10 days, and then
rest the pasture 16 to 20 days.
Restrict or exclude grazing during
the hot, dry months. Sweet Clover may be grazed lightly during
this period when fertility and soil moisture are adequate to
produce new growth.
When managing Sweet Clover for
seed, combine it direct when the majority of seeds are mature,
and before excessive shattering begins.
When about two-thirds of the
seeds turn brown, (usually in July) mow the crop, and windrow
it with a side delivery rake in the early morning when the crop
is slightly damp and tough. After a few days of drying, thresh
directly from the windrow with a rotary pickup attachment on
When Sweet Clover is used to
improve soil, best results are obtained if turned under or cut
into the surface with a disk at maximum growth. Follow with a
summer or early fall crop.
For more information about Sweet
Clover, contact the local office of the Natural Resources Conservation
Service listed in the telephone directory under U.S. Government,
or the University of Illinois Cooperative Extension Service.
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