Clover - Cultivation

Cultivation

Several species are extensively cultivated as fodder plants. The most widely cultivated clovers are white clover Trifolium repens and red clover Trifolium pratense. Clover, either sown alone or in mixture with ryegrass, has for a long time formed a staple crop for soiling, for several reasons: it grows freely, shooting up again after repeated mowings; it produces an abundant crop; it is palatable to and nutritious for livestock; it grows in a great range of soils and climates; and it is appropriate for either pasturage or green composting.

In many areas, particularly on acidic soil, clover is short-lived because of a combination of insect pests, diseases and nutrient balance; this is known as "clover sickness". When crop rotations are managed so that clover does not recur at intervals shorter than eight years, it grows with much of its pristine vigor.

Clover sickness in more recent times may also be linked to pollinator decline; clovers are most efficiently pollinated by bumblebees, which have declined as a result of agricultural intensification. Honeybees can also pollinate clover, and beekeepers are often in heavy demand from farmers with clover pastures. Farmers reap the benefits of increased reseeding that occurs with increased bee activity, which means that future clover yields remain abundant. Beekeepers benefit from the clover bloom, as clover is one of the main nectar sources for honeybees.

T. repens, white or Dutch clover, is a perennial abundant in meadows and good pastures. The flowers are white or pinkish, becoming brown and deflexed as the corolla fades. T. hybridum, alsike or Swedish clover, is a perennial which was introduced early in the 19th century and has now become naturalized in Britain. The flowers are white or rosy, and resemble those of the last species. T. medium, meadow or zigzag clover, a perennial with straggling flexuous stems and rose-purple flowers, is of little agricultural value.

Other South African species are: T. arvense, hare's-foot trefoil; found in fields and dry pastures, a soft hairy plant with minute white or pale pink flowers and feathery sepals; T. fragiferum, orange clover, with hot-grounded, globose, rose-purple heads and swollen calyxes; T. procumbens, hop trefoil, on dry pastures and roadsides, the heads of pale yellow flowers suggesting miniature hops; and the somewhat similar T. minus, common in pastures and roadsides, with smaller heads and small yellow flowers turning dark brown.

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