August 2010
Forage Matters

Arrowleaf Clover Has Proven To Be a Great Pasture Legume

A significant development in the forage picture in the Deep South occurred in the early 1960s with the introduction of arrowleaf clover. The variety ‘Yuchi,’ developed by Dr. C.S. Hoveland and released by Auburn University, was particularly well-received by livestock producers. Two other varieties, ‘Meechi’ and ‘Amclo,’ were released by Mississippi State University and the University of Georgia, respectively, at about the same time.

During the period mid-April to early June, the value of arrowleaf clover is clearly demonstrated. At this time, this valuable cool-season annual legume makes a tremendous amount of extremely high-quality forage growth. In fact, it’s hard to imagine anyone who has closely observed a good stand of this clover during this vigorous growth period could help but be convinced of its excellence.

Arrowleaf clover is a fall-planted species basically used in two ways. It is frequently planted on a prepared seedbed with ryegrass and/or small grain. Because it begins its main growth period just as the quantity and quality of forage produced by these winter annual grasses begins to decline, it maintains a high-plane of nutrition and, assuming soil moisture is available, can allow extension of the grazing period of a winter annual pasture by about a month. This can have the result of increasing yearling beef gains by over 100 pounds per acre and also adds flexibility to the decision of when grazing will be terminated. A good stand of this clover also typically fixes 100 pounds or more of nitrogen per acre, which can reduce fertilization requirements for a crop planted behind it.

Arrowleaf clover can also be overseeded on the dormant sods of summer pastures like Bermudagrass or bahiagrass. When overseeded, it may be planted alone or in combination with winter annual grasses and/or crimson clover. When arrowleaf clover is overseeded on a summer grass, it fixes nitrogen used by the pasture grass and improves the quality of spring and early-summer grazing.

Several other qualities of arrowleaf clover are noteworthy. Only five to ten pounds of seed are needed per acre to obtain a good stand, it is a hardy plant with few insect problems, it maintains high forage quality throughout its growing season and it can easily be managed for reseeding. Finally, bloat almost never occurs with animals grazing this clover.

When stand failures occur with arrowleaf clover, it is usually because one of the following mistakes were made: (1) the seed were not inoculated, (2) the seed were not scarified, (3) the seed were planted too deeply, (4) the planting date was wrong, (5) the wrong seeding rate was used, (6) there was excessive stubble present in the area (applies to overseeded areas) or (7) poor grazing management was exercised on the clover like allowing it to be grazed too early, trampling damage occurred because of heavy stocking during wet weather or undergrazing resulted in the "shading out" of clover by companion grasses. All of these problems are the fault of the producer, not the clover.

In 2001, a new variety of arrowleaf clover named ‘Apache,’ which has resistance to virus disease and root and crown rots, was released by Texas A&M University. Seed of both Apache and Yuchi are available through commercial seed channels. Arrowleaf clover is an excellent forage plant that could be of much benefit on many livestock farms where it is not being used at present.

Don Ball is an Extension Forage Crop Agronomist with Auburn University.