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Reducing inputs by adding a touch of clover – Barenbrug in the Innovation Hub


Is grassland the most important crop of the 21st century? Find out all about grass for agriculture from Barenbrug at the Innovation Hub. 

Organic nitrogen offers benefits

White clover fixes nitrogen in grassland
White clover fixes nitrogen in grassland

The cost of UK-produced ammonium nitrate increased by 50 per cent in a year, taking it to the highest price for seven years, according to Mhairi Dawson, Barenbrug’s R&D Manager. She says that this strengthens the case for using clover in grassland and benefiting from its ability to fix nitrogen.

“White clover will fix up to 150kg/ha per annum, depending on soil and climatic conditions,” she says, “which can unshackle producers from their reliance on artificial nitrogen.

“Clover itself is higher in protein than grass alone, typically providing a crude protein content of 27 per cent. Every 10 per cent increase in the amount of clover in the sward translates into a 1 per cent crude protein increase in first-cut silage.”

Ms Dawson says that some livestock enterprises are now relying on white clover alone for their grassland nitrogen requirements. “There’s no decline in productivity, yet they’re still getting the environmental benefit and the vastly lower costs. Research has shown that the white clover/grass combination produces more dry matter than grass alone. Couple that with improved digestibility – typically clover has a D value of more than 75 per cent – and the result is more meat and milk from the same area.”

Benefits of clover in grassland

White clover also improves grassland resilience during times of stress, emphasises Ms Dawson, such as during drought, flooding or periods of high disease pressure. In wet, late springs or early autumns that prevent travel and the application of artificial nitrogen, clover can provide grass with atmospheric nitrogen instead, allowing it to continue growing.

For those looking to over-seed, rather than include clover in a reseeding mixture, Ms Dawson recommends a maximum of 2.5kg/ha. “White clover supplies around 1.5m seeds per kilogram, so a little goes a long way.

“Its versatility in seeding is another attraction,” she points out. “Apply it with slurry or dung, spin it out from a spreader or even feed it through sheep by adding to a lick bucket or a molassed feed. By adding it while stock remain in the field, it will be pressed in by their hooves.” Variety choice depends on cutting and grazing requirements, with small-leaved varieties best for heavy sheep grazing and the very largest best for silage.

Barenbrug in the Innovation Hub

Yvonne Hargreaves, also of Barenbrug, comments about their presence in the Innovation Hub. “At Barenbrug, we’ve one simple goal: to help all farmers make the most of grass, forage and herbal leys – and that applies across the board, whether you’re producing milk, raising livestock or growing essential crops. Our innovative grass and forage genetics help generate practical agronomic and environmental gains across UK farming systems for increased productivity and sustainability.”

More about Barenbrug UK.


Innovation Hub 2022