- Short-lived perennial
- Pink or White
- Fibrous roots with deep penetrating taproot
- Self-incompatible, cross-pollinated species
- Cool season; growth initiates at 46 F, stops at 89 F
Alsike clover, named after the village where it originated, is one of the best legumes for hay production in the high-altitude irrigated areas of the western US. It has become an important forage legume in areas suited to clover-timothy production.It is useful because it grows well in places that are too wet, infertile, or acid for red clover or alfalfa, while maintaining the same quality. Alsike Clover has good salt and alkali tolerance. It is able to tolerate cold temperatures and flooding and a wider range of pH than most other legumes. It is used in pasture mixtures with red clover and grasses because it is a cheap seed and because of it’s adaptability to many soil conditions.
Alsike clover is well adapted to wet, heavy soils and produces well in areas not suitable for red clover. It is tolerant of 10 to 20 days of flooding. It is tolerant of cold and frost heaving, and has excellent winterhardiness. Damage from insects and diseases and depletion of root carbohydrates are uncommon. Because the leaves and stems of alsike clover are glabrous, the hay is less dusty than that of red clover. The bloat hazard is similar to that of red clover or alfalfa.
Alsike clover is quite tolerant of grazing. A rotational system where alsike is grazed to height of 2 to 4 inches (5-10 cm)following a regrowth period of 4 weeks will result in a persistent stand of good quality forage. Including timothy with plantings of alsike for a hay crop is recommended because the clover has a tendency to lodge. Alsike clover produces only one crop of hay each season.
Regrowth after hay cutting is quite good and is similar to that of single-cut red clover. Alsike clover is very palatable to cattle. Proper fall use will not deplete root carbohydrates or affect winterhardiness.
Alsike clover is satisfactory in a pasture mixture, although its short life limits its usefulness to the first few years of production. It is somewhat difficult to control the proportion of alsike clover in a mixture, since this legume tends to dominate the stand for the first one or two years, and then it decreases rapidly.
In areas with good soil moisture, alsike clover yields well, and generally will thrive where other legumes fail. Like red clover, it is high in moisture content, and therefore, is difficult to cure in the field; however, it retains its green color somewhat better. Alsike clover is seldom grown alone, but it produces good yields in mixtures with grasses such as timothy, and since the grass holds the clover more upright, harvesting is easier. Normally, only one cutting can be harvested for hay each season.
Alsike clover is most often established in the early spring when soil moisture conditions are most favorable. It is easily established where there is minimal land preparation, but must be seeded shallowly. In areas where irrigation is available, late summer seedings are also successful. Seed may be broadcast and covered by a harrow or drilled 1/2 inch (1 cm) deep into a well-prepared seedbed.