Submitted to: Popular Publication
Publication Type: Popular Publication
Publication Acceptance Date: January 16, 2008
Publication Date: February 4, 2009
Citation: Singer, J.W. 2009. Red clover interseeded into small grains makes cents. Popular Publication. The Practical Farmer. 24(1):17. Technical Abstract: Diversifying cropping systems using small grains interseeded with red clover spreads out risk and creates opportunities for adding a high quality forage and nitrogen source for subsequent crops. Red clover reliably establishes using the low-cost method of frost-seeding, dropping or spinning the seed on the soil when the ground is frozen in late winter or early spring just before or after winter small grains start to green-up. Our results indicate that 10 to 20 lbs of red clover pure live seed per acre produces forage yields ranging from 3,000 to 6,000 lbs (15% moisture content) per acre with a range of crude protein content between 18 and 26%. This potential yield is from the sum of two harvests after small grain harvest averaged across several central Iowa growing seasons. The presence of red clover will decrease but not eliminate the potential for weed establishment. The type and number of weeds will be more influenced by previous weed management and the soil weed seedbank. Mowing the clover is recommended regardless of whether the clover will be used as animal feed or not. The frequency of mowing will depend on the type of weeds and their regrowth. Red clover shoot material from our research ranges between 3 and 4% nitrogen content. Some of the red clover shoot biomass that is mowed and left on the surface will be available for the next crop, but the source and availability of the red clover nitrogen that the following crop uses will vary from year to year because red clover nitrogen is from a biological system, with many factors affecting the timing and quantity of its release. Results from several studies indicate that red clover nitrogen fertilizer replacement value to the following corn crop varies between 80 and 115 lbs/acre. This is a substantial amount of nitrogen at today’s prices. Red clover interseeded in winter small grains eliminates the fallow period after harvest and provides multiple benefits for farmers growing winter small grains.