Benefits of crimson clover as a cover crop

Crimson clover has many benefits when used at a cover crop for the farm system.

Crimson clover was first used in the United States in the south as a pasture legume. Its use began as early as the mid 1800s and interest in using it increased around 1940. Over the past 60 years, many different types of crimson clover have been produced. Reseeding varieties are now popular and its use as a cover crop has now become widely known. Crimson clover has many benefits that can be an asset to a farming system.

Nitrogen source

Crimson clover is a legume, meaning it adds to the nitrogen pool through nitrogen fixation. Crimson clover also scavenges for nitrogen in the soil. Crimson clover produces on average around 70-150 pounds.

Soil builder/erosion preventer

Crimson clover’s root system helps prevent erosion and builds soil. It prevents nutrient runoff and allows more precipitation to go into the soil. This builds the soils for future crop systems. Crimson clover is also a nutrient scavenger, so it brings up nutrients from deeper in the soil.

Inter-row ground cover

Crimson clover has been successfully used as an inter-row ground cover in orchards to reduce erosion.

Grazing

Crimson clover offers good grazing in cattle. It can be grazed before flowering and still produce good nitrogen to the soil. Watch for bloat when grazing cattle on crimson clover.

Quick establishment

Crimson clover is very quick growing and robust once established. This makes it ideal in providing quick or early nitrogen to fields, which need it. 

Beneficial habitat

Crimson clover offers elongated, deep red blossoms to beneficial insects such as bees. The blossoms are 0.5-1 inch in length and produce lots of nectar. Crimson clover also serve as a habitat for beneficial predators.

For more information on crimson clover, see “Management and planting of crimson clover as a cover crop.”

Michigan State University Extension educators have developed fact sheets and pamphlets that will help you determine the best clover for your management needs. For more information on using cover crop or to request copies of the factsheets, contact me at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or Paul Gross, .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

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