Alsike Clover Seed Production
Description: Alsike Clover (Trifolium hybridum)
Alsike clover is intermediate between red and white clover. Plants are semi-erect growing tall enough to be cut for hay. Leaflets are not marked with a white V te flowers vary from white to almost completely rose colored. Seeds vary from yellowish to dark green in color.
Alsike clover has been grown in Europe for centuries an it is an important legume in the timothy-clover area of the US and Canada. It is used as a compliment to Red clover in meadow mixtures. It tolerates more flooding, acidity, and alkalinity than other clovers.
Alsike clover usually acts as a short-lived perennial, but in some regions (e.g. - northern Alberta), it persists for many years. It seems likely that its short lifespan under other conditions is due to root diseases. It grows best in cool climates, and on low-lying wet or peaty soils that may flood for short periods. Alsike tolerates soils too acid or too saline for red clover. Most varieties are winterhardy, though the tetraploid type is less so than the common diploid type.
The seeds are very small and should not be seeded more than one half inch (1.25 cm) deep. Pack drilled seedings with a wheel press and broadcast seedings with a surface packer. Seed one to two lbs/acre (1.1 to 2.2 kg/ha) of inoculated seed in a row spacing of 12 in (30 cm). A companion crop is not recommended, but if one is used, seed it at about one-half the usual rate in 12 in (30 cm) rows and crosswise to the clover. Spring seeding is recommended, but stands can be established as late as mid-July if soil moisture is adequate and the weather is not too hot and dry.
Fertilizers are not usually needed, but a soil test is recommended and any required fertilizer should be worked in before seeding.
Alsike clover is a favourite pasture for honey bees and they do an excellent job of pollination. At least one strong colony per acre is recommended for large fields and more than one colony per acre for small fields.
Severe insect damage is unusual. If an insecticide is needed, apply it when the bees are not in the field or remove the hives during the spraying operation. Ideally, the crop should be sprayed before the plants are in flower. Remove crop residue after the harvest to aid in the control of insects and diseases.
Alsike clover matures earlier than red clover, and usually can be harvested late in July or early August. The seeds shatter readily, so handle the crop as little as possible. Straight combining is not advisable, since seed can easily shatter before the stems and leaves are dry. It is usual to harvest with a swather or a mower with a windrowing attachment, and to cut when the plants are wet with dew or rain. Harvest when a majority of the seeds are ripe or turning purplish. Pick up and combine the swaths before they are completely dry, to avoid losses due to seed shattering. Combining usually occurs after five to seven days of good drying weather. Suggested settings for the combine are 3/32 to 3/16 for concave clearance, and 900-1400 r.p.m. for cylinder speed.
Top screen 1/19; bottom screen 6 x 32.
Red clover will normally be productive for seed production for a maximum of 2 seed harvest years.
Expected Yield and Price
Expected seed yields are 350 - 600 lb/ac in Manitoba, with seed price on the basis of certified seed production averaging $0.40 /lb to the grower.