Emily recently attended an event hosted by AHDB highlighting the benefits that including clover in your cropping can bring. Clover is a versatile and beneficial crop that plays a crucial role in sustainable agriculture. It improves soil health and fertility and reduces the need for inorganic fertilisers through its remarkable ability to fix nitrogen from the atmosphere, contributing to a more environmentally friendly farming system.

Key Benefits of Clover For Farms

  • Nitrogen fixing – 150 – 250kg N/ha per year
  • SFI payment of £102/ha under NUM2: Legumes on improved grassland
  • Red clover/ryegrass swards are capable of producing 10–14 t DM/ha per year
  • Break crop - Red clover has considerable benefits as a break crop in mixed farming situations, thanks to its ability to improve soil structure and soil nitrogen status.
  • Improves soil structure
  • Higher protein levels of grazing and conserved forage
  • Increases of up to 300 litres/cow and rises in milk solids
  • Drought resistant
  • Reduced use of inorganic fertilisers

farm consultants tips for clover in forage

Source: Adapted from ADAS and IBERS

How to manage Clover

Clover does need to be managed differently to an all-grass ley: 

It’s best to have a stubble of 5 – 6cm going into the winter but be careful that stock does not bite out the crown of the plant.

A break of 5 – 7 years between growing in the same field.

Pre – grazing cover of 2,800 –2,900kg/DM/ha, be careful of bloat when turning out stock that are not use to clover leys. Early grazing will stimulate growth as clover will start growing at 10 degrees. Aim for a residual of 4cm as the light will promote stolon growth. Clover leys are generally very palatable to stock and have high D value.

Establishing clover top tips

  • A clean, firm seedbed, ring-rolled prior to sowing
  • Soil pH of 6.0–6.2. If ground conditions permit, apply lime 2–3 weeks before spring N application to fields destined for silage because it can take several months to increase pH throughout the topsoil
  • Apply nitrogen fertiliser on soils with low nitrogen status, but only up to 50 kg N/ha
  • Apply phosphate and potash if soil indices are below 2
  • Optimum seed depth is 5–10 mm, sow into warm soil from April to late July
  • For monoculture swards, use 15 kg/ha of seed (6 kg/acre)
  • For mixed swards, use 7 kg/ha (3 kg/acre) of red clover and 22 kg/ha (9 kg/acre) of grass

If you would any advise or assistance on introducing Clover within your cropping rotation please contact our UK farm consultants here in Wiltshire at Douglas Green Consulting.