Submitted to: American Forage and Grassland Council Conference Proceedings
Publication Type: Proceedings
Publication Acceptance Date: February 1, 1996
Publication Date: N/A
Interpretive Summary: Most white clover cultivars grown in the southeastern U.S. are large-leaf or Ladino types. Breeders have usually worked with these types due to their greater initial yields. However, when good white clover stands are observed in a closely-grazed pasture, the white clover is often of the small-leaf type rather than the large-leaf type. These small-leaf types maintain a consistent presence in these pastures probably due to their reseeding ability. This study compared the seed production of seven naturalized white clover populations collected from pastures with that of seven common cultivars. The plants were grown in a common bermudagrass pasture, and only grazed by cattle until May 1. Pasture-collected populations produced more flowers and averaged five times as much seed as the cultivars. Most of the seed were hard and many would survive to germinate in future years. The "potential" amount of soft seed available to establish a stand the next year would average 11 lbs./acre for the populations and 2 lbs./acre for the cultivars. Many factors such as cattle grazing or trampling during flowering, insect feeding, seed decomposition, grass competition, and weather could greatly reduce the seed amounts actually available for germination. The limited seed production by the cultivars would make reseeding difficult, while the excessive seed production by the populations could enable them to reseed even under unfavorable environmental conditions.
Technical Abstract: White clover (Trifolium repens L.) observed within continously-stocked pastures in the southeastern U.S. is often of the small-leaf type rather than the large-leaf type characteristic of most common cultivars. These small-leaf types maintain a consistent presence in pastures probably due to seedling recruitment. This study compared the relative seed production of seven naturalized white clover populations collected from pastures with that of seven common cultivars. All of the pasture-collected populations had much greater flower numbers, seed numbers, and seed weights than the cultivars. The quantity of hard seed produced by these populations (up to 500 lbs./acre) could enable them to reseed and persist under continuous stocking, while the limited seed production by the cultivars would make persistance via reseeding difficult.