When wildlife managers consider what types of seed to plant for their food plots, clover is usually not at the top of their list. Cereal grains, winter peas and brassicas occupy the front space. These and other seeds are wise choices, but clover food plot seed should be somewhere in the mix.
Many wildlife seed producers have clover seeds in many of their blends and it is with good reason. Various clovers produce forage throughout the fall and winter seasons. And they accompany other plants in the plot producing viable food into the summer months.
But clover can be a top forage producer and wildlife attractor even in pure stands. Some hunting lease managers and hunters may not recognize the benefits of pure clover stands for food plots. Clovers are a hot seed topic and a very versatile plant for deer and turkey.
New Hot Clovers
According to Daniel Bumgarner at Wildlife Management Solutions (WMS) a clover that has hit a home run is Frosty Berseem. This clover looks like alfalfa and sometimes is referred to as the “poor man’s” alfalfa. As the name implies Frosty Berseem is cold tolerant.
“Frosty Berseem is a heavy tonnage produce and actively grows below 60- degrees F.,” mentions Bumgarner. “It will perform well in sandy to clay soils in the Blackbelt Region.
Also, Frosty Berseem can survive soggy soil conditions. Deer really love this type of clover. In a clover preference trial at Mississippi State University, Frosty Berseem placed first in drawing deer during the season. The only negative trait is that is does not re-seed well.
Bumgarner pointed out another relativity new clover that has become hot named Fixation Balansa Clover. It can grow in sandy or waterlogged type soils. It can also handle dry soil and pH levels from around 4.5 to 8.5. This clover is considered a bio-mass and provides plenty of tonnage during deer season. By springtime it can be three feet high.
Fixation can produce over 90,000 pounds of forage per acre. And this clover provides 300 pounds of nitrogen per acre. It re-seeds well and it placed second in the Miss. State food plot preference trials.
Annuals versus perennials
There are many different types of clovers available. They all fall into one of two categories, annuals and perennials. An annual is a plant only grows for one year before dying. A perennial plant can continue to grow and survive for more than a year under normal conditions.
“Annual type clovers grow well throughout deer season,” Bumgarner commented. “Perennial type clovers are not as productive during deer season but do grow better into the spring.”
Bumgarner pointed out that once established, some of their clovers can last three years or more. Ladino and Kenland Red are two types of perennial clovers offered by WMS. Regal Graze, a ladino clover is a type of perennial clover that can persist for three to five years. It was developed for a larger leaf size and higher canopy than other white and ladino clovers. It is a great choice for food plots.
Another top perennial clover is Osceola Ladino. This clover is draught tolerant. It prefers a soil pH level of around 6 to 6.5 but will grow in slightly acidic soils. Once stablished it grows well on upland and bottomland sights. Osceola is very high in protein and provides year-round forage for deer and turkey.
Crimson Clover is a re-seeding annual and is quick to establish. It grows well in less fertile soils than other clovers. At maturity the clover is readily identifiable by its bright red seed head. In late summer the plants seed-out and a light disking over the plot will re-seed it.
Most annual clovers can be mixed with other plant types to provide different types of forage throughout the deer season. And the plants still be viable into spring turkey season.
WMS offers a blend called Clover Feast. It contains annual clovers of Frosty Berseem Clover and Fixation Balansa. Clover Feast blend is suitable for all soil types from dry to waterlogged. It can be mixed with cereal grains at around 5- to 10 pounds per acre or in pure stands at seeding rate of 15-pounds per acre.
Prepared seed beds for clover
One critical factor in establishing a clover food plot is the pH level of the soil. The pH level indicates how acidic or alkaline the soil. A pH level of 7.0 is neutral. Anything below 7.0 is acidic and above 7.0 is alkaline. Most clover varieties grow well with a pH factor around 5.5 to 6.5.
“It’s always a good idea to get a soil test for your plot at least every two years,” Bumgarner advised. “A soil test is inexpensive and can save you money later on.”
Soil tests are simple and easy to do. Before planting your clover food plot seed, take a few small shovels of dirt/soil from various points around the plot site. Mix the soil in a small bucket and place a sample in a kit bag. Soil sample kits can be obtained from a local Co-Op or seed supply stores.
Follow the instructions on the kit. The cost for the soil test is minimal, usually less than $10. In about two weeks you should receive the results in the mail.
The result sheet should indicate the pH level along with the nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus levels, (the three main nutrients for plants). The test results will indicate how much lime is needed to adjust the pH level. Fertilizer can also be added to meet the nutrient requirements as indicted from the soil test results.
Bumgarner mentions that clover adds nitrogen to the soil. Nitrogen is one of the main nutrients for healthy plant growth. By planting clover, the nitrogen level in the soil can be increased naturally and this reduces the need for costly fertilizer.
Clover seeds are very small and a little extra care in planting is required. A well-prepared seedbed for the plot is essential for good seed germination. The soil should be smooth. No large clods or rough soil. It is wise to run a cultipacker over the plot before planting.
“Clover seed should not be planted more than 1⁄4 – inch deep,” Bumgarner reports. “Clover seed requires a firm, smooth seed bed. The soil should not be fluffy.”
After seeding, make another pass over the plot with a cultipacker to press the seed into the soil. For maximum germination, there needs to be good seed-to-soil contact. Since clover seed is tiny, some folks prefer to use a bag-style, hand crank seed spreader. It is a little more work, but it is easier to obtain better seed coverage over the entire plot.
Grass and weed competition can choke out clover, especially in perennial plots. The use of a selective herbicide like Clethodim or 2-4DB will help control grasses and broadleaf plants without harming the clover.
For more information about clover food plot seed and planting contact WMS at: email@example.com