Red clover in cropping systems
Red clover has played an important role as a supplier of reactive nitrogen to cropping systems in European agriculture for hundreds of years. Today, it is mostly valued for its good nutritional properties for ruminants, and for reducing the need for nitrogen fertilizer inputs. Red clover is a short-lived perennial capable of producing dry matter yields in the range of 9–18 t/ha/year, but the yield declines sharply after the first 2 harvest years. It forms an efficient symbiosis with rhizobium and can fix in excess of 350 kg/ha of nitrogen, most of which is transferred to the harvested biomass. Red clover is rich in protein and minerals, and contains unique compounds that improve nitrogen use efficiency at farm level and that improve the quality of animal products for human consumption with respect to fatty acid profiles, compared with white clover or lucerne (alfalfa). Red clover is usually grown mixed with grasses. It should be sown in the first half of the growing season and is easy to establish. It thrives in most soils but does not tolerate very acid or wet soils. Systematic breeding has been carried out for more than 100 years, and the main focus of breeding programmes is to increase crop persistence through improved disease resistance and winter hardiness.
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Frankow-Lindberg, B., (2017). Red clover in cropping systems. In: Murphy-Bokern, D., Stoddard, F. and Watson, C. (Eds.). Legumes in cropping systems. CABI.