Alsike clover can grow under less favorable conditions than required for red clover. Alsike survives well under wet conditions, but its drought resistance is lower than that of red clover due to the superficial root system. It is usually used for halage or silage. In order to increase the palatability, Alsike fits best into mixtures with grasses. Alsike clover is less aggressive than red clover and should therefore be mixed with grasses that aren’t too aggressive. The main yield of Alsike clover is harvested in the first cut. Alsike clover is also a good crop for green manure, under sown in cereals, greenchop, or for game pastures. Should only be grown in fields where other clovers do not grow. It can cause photo toxicity in horses.
- Intermediate spring growth
- Good for short rotation mixtures
- Thrives in humid conditions
- Can be grown under varied soil fertility
Alsike clover is a true species in spite of its specific name which originally implied that it was a hybrid of red clover (T. pretense) and white clover (T. repens). It is an introduced, short-lived, non-creeping perennial with a growth habit similar to red clover. It can be distinguished from red clover by the absence of crescent-shaped marks on each leaflet and more conspicuously toothed leaves. Tillers grow profusely from the crown. Leaves are glabrous (smooth) and stipules are long with a tapering point. Stems are semi-erect, long, thin, smooth and usually hollow with very short, almost spherical axillary racemes about 2-3.5 cm (0.75-1.4 inches) in diameter. Each raceme has about 30-50 white or pale pink flowers. Individual flowers are about 6-11mm long. Flowers bend downwards after pollination and turn brown at maturity. Each seed pod is about 1 cm (0.4 inches) long and contains 3-5 seeds and vary in color from dull green to nearly black. Alsike clover has a branched tap root. Small lateral outgrowths (nodules) are usually present on the root. Alsike clover reaches a height of 2-4 feet. This introduced plant tends to recline or lodge unless companion plants help hold the stem upright
Alsike clover has approximately 680,000 seeds per pound. The full seeding rate is 3 pounds PLS per acre for a solid stand. The recommended rate for a grass/legume pasture is 25% or 0.75 pounds PLS per acre. For pasture establishment, seed is drilled into a well-prepared seedbed that has been plowed, harrowed, and compacted to produce a very firm seedbed. The seed should be inoculated with the correct Rhizobium before seeding. Seeding depth should be 1/8- 1/4 inch. Typically in grass/legume mixtures, the grass is drill seeded in rows and alsike clover is over seeded to limit competition from grass. For stabilization use, seed is often broadcast by cyclone seeders, hydroseeders, or blower-type equipment.
The proper time of seeding is determined by seasonal moisture conditions. In most areas, this may vary from early April to mid-May. Late summer and fall seedings should only be conducted when the site is irrigated and when at least six weeks of growing season remain to assure establishment before freezing conditions.
Alsike clover is usually planted with grasses for pasture and hay in areas where other higher yielding legumes are not adapted. Pure stands of alsike clover should be harvested for hay when in full bloom. However, there may be many heads with ripe seed when a field is in full bloom. Despite the presence of some mature heads, the fine stems of alsike clover keep growing and do not harden quickly. This will allow for harvesting nutritious hay over an extended time but it should not be allowed to become too ripe. The presence of ripe seed in hay that is cut too late often causes slobbering in horses. Straw from seed production or late cutting hay makes fair winter feed for sheep, foals and young cattle.
A mixture of alsike and red clover makes good hay. Although alsike clover is lower yielding than red clover, it withstands excessive soil moisture and is more tolerant of acid soils. Mixtures of alsike and red clover ensure some clover is present if the red clover fails to establish on water-logged and/or low pH areas within a field. Alsike and red clover mixtures will produce more hay combined than when planted separately. Spring applications of nitrogen will stimulate grass and provide early feed, but excessive rates are detrimental to the clover stand. Phosphate applications are broadcast in fall or spring according to soil tests. Sulfur, boron, or magnesium may be needed for maximum production on some soils in the western part of the range of alsike clover.
Management for forage is aimed at maintaining 40% to 50% clover. Close grazing (2 inch stubble height) favors clover, whereas light grazing favors grass. Pastures should be rotationally grazed. Alsike clover has a tendency to cause bloat and should be fed to livestock with care. On pasture high in alsike clover content, take steps to introduce animals gradually to the forage or risk of bloat can be high. It has also been implicated as causing “alsike clover poisoning” in horses but existing experimental evidence is insufficient to prove that such a poisoning exists caused by alsike clover. Alsike-induced photosensitization has been reported among animals grazing alsike clover. This will occur in bright, sunny weather and causes a reddening of the skin and swelling of the affected areas in horses. Alsike clover can be used as a cover crop in rotation with cereal grains or corn. It can be seeded with a cash crop in spring, and after the cash crop is harvested, the clover is allowed to grow until it is plowed down. The amount of commercial nitrogen fertilizer can be decreased for the succeeding crop.
Alsike clover is resistant to many diseases, such as bacterial wilt, bacterial blight, mildew, and northern anthracnose, which can cause major losses in other forage legumes. Most crop losses of alsike clover can be minimized by management practices that maintain a vigorous stand. The use of clean seed and rotation with non-legume crops are the most effective to control most diseases of alsike clover.
Alsike clover is subject to brown and fusarium root rot, rust, crown and stem rots, seedling blight, sooty blotch, spring black stem, stagonospora leaf spot and snow mold. Lygus bugs, aphids, and leafhoppers can cause injury to alsike clover.
Weeds can be detrimental to stand establishment. It is important to prepare clean fields for planting. The use of Certified seed can reduce weed problems and crop rotation with competitive annual crops is also beneficial. Note: Much of this content was sourced from http://plants.usda.gov/plantguide/pdf/pg_trhy.pdf
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