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Clovers Benefit Coastal Plain Grazing Systems

By Eddie Jolley, Conservation Agronomist, Auburn, AL


The Clover Demo Group discusses how select clovers perform
Producers and professionals view different clovers planted in pasture.

Over 40 producers, NRCS and Alabama Cooperative Extension System (ACES) staff attended a clover demonstration field day in April 2009 on the Terry Calhoun Farm near Elba, AL. 

The field day was held to show producers and agricultural professionals how selected clovers perform in grazing systems on Coastal Plain soils.

Clovers are a very important component of grazing systems in Alabama.  They provide increased amount of forage, improved forage quality, extended grazing, improved animal performance, and can provide up to 100 pounds of nitrogen per acre with the aid of Rhyzobia bacteria.

Eight different clovers were planted in October 2008 into a bahiagrass pasture.  Crimson, red, subterranean, berseem, white, Durana, arrowleaf, and ball clovers were planted using a broadcast spreader after a light disking.  Soil test recommendations for growing clover were followed prior to planting.  Excellent moisture conditions existed after planting and through the spring of 2009.  Stands and production of each clover were good to excellent. 

According to Mr. Calhoun, the livestock have effectively used all of the clovers.  Because stocking rates were conservative, the clovers and grasses have continued to produce adequate, high quality forage throughout the spring.  The growth and maturity characteristics of each clover also aided in providing a continuous forage supply.

According to Dr. Don Ball, Forage Specialist at Auburn University, and Eddie Jolley, NRCS Conservation Agronomist from Auburn, the demonstration was also part of an effort to evaluate the ability of new intermediate clovers to actually perenniate.  Since most of the clovers grown on Coastal Plain pastures are annuals, having a perennial clover option  helps reduce costs of annual plantings and stand failures from fall plantings.  Nitrogen fixation benefits would be provided throughout the year.

The field day was part of an organized effort through a Conservation Innovation Grant (CIG) with the Alabama Cattlemen’s Association to demonstrate effective use of clovers in grazing systems on Coastal Plain Soils.  The CIG was funded by NRCS and will continue two more years.  The CIG also includes partners from Georgia and Mississippi.

Many thanks to the staff of the New Brockton NRCS Field Office and Coffee County Extension Office for organizing this event.