Overseeding Clovers into Permanent Pastures
Schlueter, David Henry
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Benefits of establishing legumes into permanent pastures have been well studied. Successful establishment of legumes in pastures can be challenging, however, and more information is needed about different seeding methods and variables that affect legume establishment. A pasture and a small plot experiment were conducted in Blacksburg, Va from 2009 to 2011to gain better understanding of how seeding method and management variables affected red clover (Trifolium pratense L.) and white clover (Trifolium repens L.) establishment into permanent cool season grass pasture and sod. In the pasture experiment, seedling density was measured two months after sowing and grass, white clover, red clover, and weed biomass were periodically measured during the experiment. Broadcast seeding treatment had 93% more clover seedlings than drill treatment (P = 0.1087) two months after sowing. No difference (P > 0.10) for clover biomass was observed between sowing treatments in any year and clover establishment was considered successful (over 25% of pasture composition) in both treatments. In the drill treatment, clover seedling density was negatively affected by the residual grass biomass at sowing (P = 0.0196). In the broadcast treatment, a quadratic relationship between clover seedling density and residual grass biomass at sowing was found (P = 0.0516). Clover seedling density in April 2009 determined the amount of clover biomass in August 2009 (P = 0.0008) and the 2010 clover biomass mean (P = 0.0249). Further exploration of the influence fertilization with P and K, grass biomass at sowing, and defoliation frequency on clover establishment were studied in a split-split plot study. iii Fertilization with P and K was assigned to whole plots that were split in half and assigned a high or low grass biomass at sowing treatment, the subplots were split in and designated either a high or low cutting frequency. Prior to cutting, samples from each plot were sorted to grass, white clover, red clover, and weed. Plots with a low grass biomass at sowing (232 seedlings m-2) had a higher seedling density (P < 0.0001) compared with plots with a high grass biomass at sowing plots (111 seedlings m-2). Greater biomass of white and red clover depended both on having a low grass biomass at sowing and a high frequency of defoliation (P = 0.0026 and P < 0.0001, respectively). Red clover yield was also determined by interactions between fertilization and a high frequency of defoliation (P < 0.0001), as well as between fertilization and low grass biomass at sowing (P = 0.0026). Dry conditions resulted in low clover yields (6% of total herbage mass) with red clover producing four times the herbage mass of white clover. These data show that creating a favorable environment for seedlings to germinate and establish was more important than seeding method.
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