White Clover

Credit: 
Reg Newman, BC FLNR
Credit: 
JRJ
Scientific name: 

Trifolium repens L.

Type: 
Agronomic Legume
Annual precip. min (mm): 
400
Annual precip. max (mm): 
600
Seed size: 
Small
Seeds per kg: 
1,764,000
PR Suitability note: 
White clover can be grown in the Peace region, but it less winter hardy than alsike clover and red clover.
Key considerations: 
Smaller types of white clover (white Dutch) are low growing and have more winter hardiness. Forage yield is lower than other legumes.
General Description: 

White clover is widely distributed, especially in cool temperate climates. The plant has stolons or creeping stems near the soil surface. Leaves, flowers, and roots grow directly from these stolons. It is a relatively short plant with indeterminate growth, although taller types can grow up to 25 cm (10 in).The common or white Dutch is small and low growing, while the large type (e.g., Ladino) can be four times larger than the common type. Intermediate types have characteristics that are a mix of the two forms, and are commonly used for pasture.

There are 3 leaflets attached at a single point, and are dark green, often with a white watermark. Leaflets are finely toothed, hairless, and nearly round, up to 3 cm (1 1/4 in.) wide.

Seedling plants develop a taproot, but older plants have threadlike, fibrous roots growing from detached stolons. White clover has one of the lowest root-to-shoot ratios of the legumes. Flower heads can have up to 100 flowers, which are cross-pollinated. Seed pods develop hard, yellow to red seeds.

Origin: 
It is generally accepted that white clover has Mediterranean origins, and was brought to North America by settlers. Some have suggested the true ancestral forms originated in North America, and then migrated to Eastern Asia and on to the Mediterranean.
Habitat and climate: 
White clover needs adequate growing season moisture and moderate summer temperatures. These conditions limit white clover to irrigated areas, or moist microsites at low elevations in southern British Columbia.
Uses: 
Used in pastures and will often fill in with overgrazing, especially by sheep and horses. White clover has been used extensively for seeding after timber harvest in forestry contexts for both forage and soil improvement. White clover is also used in grass mixes for erosion control.
Optimal time of grazing use: 
Later in the spring, once the plant has reached full height and leaf canopy. Tolerates frequent grazing and can be grazed repeatedly throughout the season.
Recovery after use (rating): 
H
Recovery after use: 
Low growing points make white clover well adapted to use in continuous, closely grazed systems. Taller types benefit from rotational grazing.
Forage yield (rating): 
L
Forage yield: 
It’s low growing form makes white clover lower yielding than other legumes, but quality remains high throughout the growing season and after grazing. Intermediate and tall types have greater forage yields.
Palatability/Nutritional Value: 
Palatable for livestock, especially sheep who may select for it. Increased risk of bloat due to high digestibility.
Longevity (rating): 
L
Persistence (rating): 
M
Persistence: 
Survival of stolons affects persistence. Stands persist from seed set and surviving stolons; small types can sometimes persist in patches on drier sites.
Invasiveness (rating): 
H
Invasiveness: 
Small volunteer types can invade continuously grazed pastures, under moist conditions.
Erosion control (rating): 
M
Erosion control: 
White clover has value in erosion control mixes to produce nitrogen for grasses. Can provide reasonable erosion control on moist fertile slopes, but will be patchy on drier sites.
Drought tolerance (rating): 
L
Drought tolerance: 
Yield is negatively affected by short drought periods. Small types tend to be more drought tolerant.
Winter hardiness (rating): 
L
Winter hardiness: 
Large types are the least winter hardy. Intermediate and small types have some winter hardiness.
Soil texture preference (rating): 
FM
Soil texture preference: 
Prefers clay and silty loam textured soil, but will grow on coarser sandier soils if moisture is adequate.
Flooding tolerance (rating): 
M
Flooding tolerance: 
Tolerates excess moisture but not flooding or water logging for extended periods of time during the growing season.
Salinity tolerance (rating): 
L
Acidity tolerance (rating): 
H
Acidity tolerance : 
Can grow in pH 5.0, but prefers 6.0 to 6.5.
Shade tolerance: 
Low shade tolerance.
Fire tolerance (rating): 
H
Pests and/or disease threats: 
Clover seed weevils, lesser clover weevils, casebearers (Coleophora mayrella), leafhoppers.
Ease of establishment (rating): 
H
Ease of establishment: 
Establishes easily if moisture conditions are favourable.
Application requirements: 
Can be applied with a variety of methods (e.g., drill seeding, direct or sod seeding, and broadcast seeding). Can be seeded by feeding directly to grazing animals in a salt mixture. (See page 39 for discussion.)
Suggested mixtures: 
Intermediate types work well with Kentucky bluegrass, meadow bromegrass, or orchardgrass with frequent use to keep stands short.
Management considerations: 
Inoculate with Rhizobium trifolii for better nodulation and nitrogen fixing. Grows best on fertile, moist soils. Can tolerate a shorter rest period than other legumes in a grazing system, but grazing should be light enough not to damage stolons. Should not be grazed during the last 6 weeks of the growing season, but can be grazed later in the fall. It is important to monitor for bloat with grazing animals.