If you established a new reseed last year and want to stitch in white clover this year - how should you do it? William Fleming, Area Sales Manager for Scotland and North East England, provides his top tips.
Limited clover-safe sprays for controlling weeds in new leys means stitching in clover once a grass reseed is established can be attractive.
This enables any existing, heavy broadleaf weed burdens to be well and truly controlled in the ley’s first year, with clover introduced in the following season.
However, all too often farmer’s good intentions to introduce clover at a later date can go forgotten. It’s vital you build this into your grassland action plan or you could be missing out on productivity gains. After all, clover helps build sward biodiversity, aids soil structure, increases dry matter intakes and performance. As a legume, it’s nitrogen fixing abilities are also equivalent to 150-250kgN/ha.
Think about the following when introducing clover:
Ensure broadleaf weeds are under control
Make sure you have weeds well and truly under control. Work with your agronomist to ensure the correct sprays are used at the right time both before and after establishing the new ley.
Choose the right clover to suit management
Always choose clovers from the Recommended Grass and Clover Lists (RGCLs) and opt for a blend. If you’re wanting to cut the sward for dairy cows, choose large and medium leafed varieties. For sheep, choose small and medium leafed clovers.
Introduce the clover when soils are warm and moist
Stitch in clover at least six weeks after weed control to adhere to withdrawal periods. A warm, moist seed-bed is vital (April-August, depending on location).
Ensure good seed to soil contact
Over-sow after grazing or cutting the field to help seed to soil contact.
Identify the fields you want to reseed this Autumn now and put together a targeted weed control programme with your agronomist to nip weeds in the bud before establishment. Getting a good clean seed bed could mean you could include clover in the mix from the start which will reduce the costs associated with going in at a later date.
Opt for a slightly higher seed rate
A slightly higher seed rate of 4kg/ha is recommended for over-sowing compared to a full reseed to compensate for higher seeding loss.
Carefully graze the sward to help clover establishment
Under or over grazing is the enemy when it comes to clover establishment. Graze too hard and clover will be knocked back and graze too lightly and grass will outcompete the clover. The key is to graze down to a residual of 1,500kgDM/ha or 4cm so sunlight can get down to the clover. Graze lightly and for short periods until clover is well established.
Adopt good rotational grazing
Once clover has established, adopt good rotational grazing to enable clover to rest and recover - always graze down to 4cm.
Think carefully about fertiliser
Avoid application of nitrogen in early establishment as it will encourage grass to grow and increase the risk of clover being outcompeted. Apply a 0:20:30 fertiliser just after clover has been stitched in so potassium and phosphate is available for the young clover plant.