FL, you will know this answer better than just about anyone. How much do you really need to fertilize clover to get it to grow?
I remember reading something in Ed's book about clover generating its own source of nitrogen by the way the nodules form on the roots. I am tired and just got home from work though and aplogize if I am off base on remembering this.
I have only fertilized my clover fields twice in two years and they are literally almost knee deep right now (I did lime them well before planting) and they are most white dutch clover with a mixture of landino, alsike and a red clover mixed in.
I know that Ed supporting fertilizer, but I think he was saying that once established, it was not critical.
I agree with FL. The best time to fertilize is when you have the money and before the next rain.
Clover and alfalfa can pull nitrogen from the air and store them in nodules. It does need phosphorus, potassium and boron to increase yields. IMO if the pH is in line then fertilizer money is best spent on the P K and B.
As Anderson noted, legumes (which include clover and alfalfa) really don't need much nitrogen. Some say none. I use 6-24-24 because it's more readily available in the places where I shop than any other practical blend. In order for those legumes to be not only productive but highly palatable, they need potassium, phosphorus, and other minerals.
Now, corn, on the other hand, needs a boatload of nitrogen, something like 200-300#/acre of 46-0-0. I just paid $15 a bag for the stuff.
$15 a bag you say. It wasn't that long ago when I paid $4.75. Must be the same guys that run the oil business.
You can get away with little to no nitrogen for legumes. However when first planting clovers, alfalfa etc things are not yet correct. The young plants have not created their nitrogen fixing nodules and the trash mixed in the soil will need to decompose. The billions of bacteria already living in your soil will commence to work on this organic trash and eventually turn it into compost, which adds nutrients for your clover. However bacteria needs energy to do it's work. They derive their energy from nitrogen and what little nitrogen generated by the young clovers is used up by the active bacteria and not by the clover itself. So, your clover is stressed at first.
It is important to get your perennials started with a bang, especially alfalfa. How many alfalfa plants you get at emergence is all you will ever get, for alfalfa is self toxic from the toxins generated by its root sysytem. Well begun is half done and this surely applies to legumes.
Normally, 25 lbs per acre of actual nitrogen applied at planting time will feed those bacteria and create a good start for those young clovers. When that trash is completely digested, it and the dead bacteria now feeds the growing legumes with a slow release of nutrients, just as nature intended. It doesn't get any bettr, but you do need to do your thing.
The following is my fertilizer formula for legumes. At planting, in addition to applying the recommended fertilizer per soil test I add 60 lbs of urea 45-0-0 per acre.
For maintenance, in spring (early April to June first) 200 lbs of 7-27-27 or 6-24-24 per acre. Around the first of August 200 lbs of 0-20-30. The above may seem to be heavy to some, but I find a definite advantage in deer choosing my clover fields over my neighbors and isn't this what we want? For my kill plots and only these plots I apply 50-100 lbs of urea 45-0-0 around September 15th. Again this is to help draw and keep deer on my land and in my kill food plots.
In your kill plots with added nitrogen in mid September, I guarntee results or Farm Legend with his new Hugh tracter will create a one acre food plot for your pleasure at no cost.
Great info Ed. Thanks for this. I was not fertilizing my clover correctly.
I have not found 46-0-0 yet this year around here for under $17 a bag!
By the way, sitting at lunch with Tony LaPratt in Coldwater a couple of months back, I brought up the subject of auto-toxicity of alfalfa to the group, including a food plot guy he had attending his class that weekend.
Everyone looked at me like I was out of my mind, and in fact several people, including the food plot guy told me I was nuts. I felt like a 2nd grader who just got kissed in front of the class by my teacher, who was a nun! I actually changed the subject versus debating the issue with the group.
I am glad to hear you restate the auto-toxicity piece again.
I agree with Ed on autotoxicity. My alfalfa seed salesman told me that you can still plant clover into an established alfalfa field and get a good catch. I have done this the past 3-4 years and had success. I will need to do that again this year as my glyphosate application has nuked my food plots.
Now that is an option to my mistakenly planted Vernal (hay cutting) alfalfa plot I planted last year. I got the wrong seed from the dealer and did not check it before planting it.
The stuff is growing great, but it is thin and grows tall not wide so not real desirable for the deer. I have cut it back twice already based on Ed's advice and that helps, but a small family of deer will wipe out the plot in a couple of days when they decide to start eating it.
I could thicken it with clover and have a dual plot. Good thought! Or I could kill it and plant buckwheat for a while. Another good thought. Too many options in this foodplotting business.
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