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A Role for Exotics in UK Forage Production
2012-01-24

There was a touch of the exotics in Worcestershire last year when Barenbrug included Arrrowleaf, Egyptian, Crimson and Shaftel clovers at its trial site. Alongside more traditional species, the trial site looks at novel and innovative crops, which may have benefits for UK agriculture.

Arrowleaf clover was one of the top-performing species
in the Barenbrug trial.

Arrowleaf clover

Barenbrug agricultural product manager David Long comments: “We are initially looking at the potential for single season growth, to see if they can be used as either a nitrogen-fixing green manure or short-season forage crop, or ideally both.

“Over the three cuts during the season the highest yielding species produced in excess of 50 percent more forage than the best red clover.

“Some of the others revealed interesting growth patterns. Sweet clover, for example, produced one of the highest yields for the first cut, but had very little re-growth. We also found the bird’s foot trefoil plot yielded well at the first cut, producing three times as much over that short time than lucerne, which was much slower to establish. Not surprisingly, given the drought, the clover plots that grew the best through the season were ones commercially grown in Australia.”

The exotic species on trial, which were sown in April in single species plots, included Egyptian, Crimson, Arrowleaf, Shaftel, Strawberry, Balsana, Sweet and Persian clover, along with bird’s foot trefoil, vetch and hairy vetch. Control plots of Alice and Crusader white, and Lemmon and Avanti red clovers, together with Sanditi lucerne were also sown. The species tested were from Barenbrug companies in Australia, Argentina and the USA.

The trial was cut for the first time on 17 July. The best species gave similar yields to the average on the adjacent perennial ryegrass trial, which had been established the previous autumn and received trial levels of nitrogen, whereas the clovers received no nitrogen. Two more cuts were taken from the plots on 22 August and 19 October. The plots have now been left to see if anything survives the winter.

The three top-performing species were Egyptian clover (Trifolium alexandrium) – an annual pasture legume originating from the eastern Mediterranean area. It is an erect plant growing 60cm to 80cm tall, with a shallow tap root, and which is capable of producing good yields of very high-quality forage, with an ME up to 11.4 and protein of 24 percent.

Arrowleaf clover (Trifolium vesiculosum) is a temperate annual legume, which will grow up to one metre in height and put down a tap root up to 1.5m looking for water. The forage is relatively high in tannin, which can affect palatability, but it is capable of producing good yields of high protein forage. And finally Persian clover (Trifolium resupinatum), which originates from the Middle East and is used in Australia as a one-year high-protein forage break and as a green manure.

“The next move is to sow the best of these species in spring in larger areas and on several sites,” says David “This will allow us to look at both the quality and quantity of forage produced and to evaluate their value as nitrogen-fixing green manures.”

For further information visit www.barenbrug.co.uk or call the office on 01359 272000 or email info@baruk.co.uk.

link Resist the Temptation to Apply Nitrogen Too Early
link Get on the Right Track with The UK Pesticide Guide 2012
link Grass Seed Will Cost More in 2012

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