Management of white clover as a cover crop
White clover is a good cover crop that if managed correctly can be a great benefit to your cropping system.
White clover serves as the premier living mulch system over any other legume. It is robust, resilient and competitive. It produces nice green walkways and builds soils. It outcompetes weeds, is easy to manage, and produces nitrogen for your soils. Everything you could want in a ground cover exists in white clover. Correct management of white clover is required to gain maximum economic value.
White clover tolerates more adverse conditions than most clovers. It can survive short flooding or drought periods, and can grow on many types of soils. It grows best in clay and loam soils over sandy soils. It is best in soils with a pH from 6.2-7.0, but it can grow in pH levels as low as 5.5.
White clover should be drilled at 3-9 pounds per acre, and broadcasted at 5-14 pounds per acre. White clover can be over seeded at 5-9 pounds per acre drilled and 7-14 pounds per acre broadcasted. When mixing, drill at 4-6 pounds per acre.
White clover serves as a perennial and an annual depending on location and seeding time. In the south, white clover serves well as a winter annual. In the north, white clover serves well as a perennial. White clover can be frost seeded as well, early in the morning when frost is in the soil. For late summer seeding, seed about 40 days before the first killing frost to allow establishment.
White clover should be mowed no lower than 3-4 inches. Leave 6-8 inches to allow overwintering.
To kill off white clover rotary tilling, chiseling and uprooting kill it efficiently. Herbicides are another alternative used to kill white clover in the spring.
White clover serves best as an inter-row ground cover for many cash crops and should be used simultaneously with them.
For more information on white clover, see "Benefits of white 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 firstname.lastname@example.org or Paul Gross, email@example.com.