White types bloom 10 to 14 days later than yellow, but bloom for a longer season. They reportedly establish more readily in New York Tall, stemmy cultivars are better for soil improvement , , Both yellow and white sweetclover have cultivars bred for low levels of coumarin. This compound exists in bound form in the plant and poses no problem during grazing. However, coumarin can cause internal injury to cattle when they eat spoiled sweetclover hay or silage.
Annual sweetclover Melilotus alba var.
The best-known annual sweetclover cultivar is HUBAM, a name often used for all annual white sweetclover. While its taproot is shorter and more slender than that of its biennial cousins, it still loosens subsoil compaction. Nutrient scavenger. Sweetclover appears to have a greater ability to extract potassium, phosphorus and other soil nutrients from insoluble minerals than most other cover crops.
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Root branches take in minerals from seldom-disturbed soil horizons, nutrients that become available as the tops and roots decompose Research in Saskatchewan during a year period showed that phosphorus P availability increased in subsoil layers relative to surface layers, peaking at an 8-foot depth. Winter wheat and safflower, with deeper root systems than spring wheat, could tap the deep P buildup from the legume roots and fallow leaching, whereas spring wheat could not.
The vesicular-arbuscular mycorrhizal VAM fungi associated with legume roots contribute to the increased P availability associated with sweetclover 69 , N source. A traditional green manure crop in the upper Midwest before nitrogen fertilizer became widely available, sweetclover usually produces about lb. In Ohio, it contained about lb. Illinois researchers reported more than lb. Abundant biomass. If planted in spring and then given two full seasons, biennial sweetclovers can produce 7, to 9, lb.
Second-year yields may go as high as 8, lb. Hot-weather producer. Sweetclover has the greatest warm-weather biomass production of any legume, exceeding even alfalfa. Soil structure builder.
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Kansas farmer Bill Granzow says sweetclover gives his soils higher organic matter, looser structure and better tilth. Compaction fighter. Yellow sweetclover has a determinate taproot root up to 1 foot long with extensive branches that may penetrate 5 feet to aerate subsoils and lessen the negative effects of compaction on crops. White types have a strong tap root that is not determinate.
Drought survivor. Once established, sweetclover is the most drought tolerant of all cover crops that produce as much biomass. It is especially resilient in its second year, when it could do well in a dry spring during which it would be difficult to establish annual cover crops. The yellow type is less sensitive to drought and easier to establish in dry soils than the white type.
Attracts beneficial insects. Blossoms attract honeybees, tachinid flies and large predatory wasps, but not small wasps. Widely acclimated. Self-reseeding sweetclover can be seen growing on nearly barren slopes, road rights-of-way, mining spoils and soils that have low fertility, moderate salinity or a pH above 6. It also can tolerate a wide range of environments from sea level to 4, feet in altitude, including heavy soil, heat, insects, plant diseases and as little as 6 inches of rain per year.
Livestock grazing or hay. If you need emergency forage, sweetclover has a first-year feed value similar to alfalfa, with greater volume of lesser quality in the second year. Loam soils with near-neutral pH are best.
Like alfalfa, it will not thrive on poorly drained soils. For high yields, sweetclover needs P and K in the medium to high range. Deficient sulfur may limit its growth In temperate areas of the Corn Belt, drill yellow sweetclover in pure stands at 8 to 15 lb. In drier areas such as eastern North Dakota, trials of seeding rates from2 to 20 lb.
Recommended rates in North Dakota are 4 to 6 lb. Further, the plants will tend to lodge and lay over, increasing the risk of diseases. So for maximum effect of subsoil penetration or snow trapping, go with a lighter seeding rate.
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Sweetclover produces 50 percent or more hard seed that can lie in soil for 20 years without germinating. Commercial seed is scarified to break this non-porous seedcoat and allow moisture to trigger germination. If you use unscarified seed, check hardseed count on the tag and do not count on more than 25 percent germination from the hardseed portion.
The need for scarification to produce an adequate stand may be over-rated, however. The process had no effect on germination in six years of field testing in North Dakota —even when planting 70 percent hard seed still in seed pods.
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Seeding too deeply is a common cause of poor establishment. Seed annual white sweetclover at 15 to 30 pounds per acre. Expect 70 to 90 lb. A press-wheel drill with a grass seed attachment and a seed agitator is suitable for planting sweetclover into a firm seedbed. If the seedbed is too loose to allow the drill to regulate seeding depth, run the seed spouts from the grass and legume boxes to drop seed behind the doubledisk opener and in front of the press wheels.
Light, shallow harrowing can safely firm the seedbed and incorporate seed In the Canadian Northern Plains, dribble the seed through drill box hoses directly in front of the presswheels for quick and easy establishment If your press-wheel drill has no legume box or grass-seed attachment, you can mix the legume and small grain seed, but mix seed often due to settling. Reduce competition between the crops by seeding a part of the companion crop first, then seed a mix of the clover seed and the balance of the grain seed at right angles Spring seeding provides yellow sweetclover ample time to develop an extensive root system and store high levels of nutrients and carbohydrates necessary for over-wintering and robust spring growth.
It grows slowly the first 60 days Where weeds would be controlled by mowing, no-till spring seeding in small grain stubble works well. Broadcast seeding for pure sweetclover stands works in higher rainfall areas in early spring where soil moisture is adequate for seven to 10 days after planting. No-till seeding works well in small grain stubble. Frostseeding into winter grains allows a harvest of at least one crop during the life cycle of the sweetclover and helps control weeds while the sweetclover establishes. Apply sweetclover seed before rapid stem elongation of the grain.
Cut grain rate about one-third when planting the crops together. Sweetclover spring seeded with oats exhibited poor regrowth after oat harvest in two years of a Wisconsin study. To establish a sweetclover cover crop in this way, the researchers found sweetclover did not fare well in years when the combine head had to be run low to pick up lodged oats.
When oats remained upright sacrificing some straw for a higher cut , sweetclover grew adequately You can plow down spring-planted yellow sweetclover in late fall of the planting year to cash in early on up to half its N contribution and a bit less than half its biomass.
Plant biennial sweetclover through late summer where winters are mild, north through Zone 6. Plant at least six weeks before frost so roots can develop enough to avoid winter heaving. In the Northern Plains into Canada, it should be planted by late August. First-year management.
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Seeding year harvest or clipping is usually discouraged, because the energy for first-year regrowth comes directly from photosynthesis provided by the few remaining leaves , not root reserves , Second-year growth comes from crown buds that form about an inch below the soil surface. Avoid mowing or grazing of sweetclover in the six- to seven-week period prior to frost when it is building final winter reserves.
Root production practically doubles between Oct. Sweetclover establishes well when sown with winter grains in fall, but it can outgrow the grain in a wet season and complicate harvest.
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Second-year management. After it breaks winter dormancy, sweetclover adds explosive and vigorous growth. Stems can reach 8 feet before flowering, but if left to mature, the stems become woody and difficult to manage. Nearly all growth the second year is topgrowth, and it seems to come at the expense of root mass. From March to August in Ohio, records show topgrowth increasing tenfold while root production decreased by 75 percent All crown buds initiate growth in spring.
If you want regrowth after cutting, leave plenty of stem buds on 6 to 12 inches of stubble.
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