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D Hunter
12-04-2012, 07:18 AM
I am planting food plots for deer but I am also trying to build soil in the meantime. I am interested in planting a variety of clovers, either together or in sequential years. The purpose is to get organic matter(and N) in the top 1-2 feet of soil. Does any body here have data on how deep the roots are on different varieties of clover? Red, crimson, arrow leaf, white, sweet, others? Thanks for any info you have. "D"

broom_jm
12-04-2012, 10:02 AM
The roots on clover are "shallow", almost universally. :)

If you want roots that go deep into the soil structure, follow an annual routine of buckwheat in the summer, (double crop?) with a winter rye/clover mixture in the fall. Depending on your locale, you can also use Dr. Harper's wheat/clover program to build up soil, but I favor BW and WR, if deep roots are your goal.

Jeager
12-04-2012, 11:58 AM
Soil type would determine rooting depth, but in my area both red clover and yellow biennial sweet clover will grow roots at least 5' deep, and possibly MUCH deeper.

Yellow sweet clover is unmatched as a green manure soil builder, IMO, and it is probably also the most drought tolerate of any legume, due to its massive root system, that grows FAST.

Unfortunately though, deer at my location will not utilize yellow sweet clover, even in severe drought. They love red clover though.

yoderj@cox.net
12-04-2012, 12:51 PM
Consider daikon radish if you are looking for deep root penetration of organic matter. I drill these through established clover after suppressing it with gly. This kills weeds, uses up some of the excess N fixed by the clover, performs "organic tillage" in my heavy clay, and adds organic matter.

Also ask yourself if you really want to worry about a couple feet down. You almost have to plow stuff under to get that deep and you can disturb the soil structure and cause a consumption of organic matter.

I need to improve my OM, but I'm taking a different approach. I'm trying to keep my soil covered using cover crops broadcast into row crops including radish, ptt, crimson clover, and winter rye. I'm minimizing my tillage both in frequency and depth. OM takes time to build, and most of our food plot crops are fairly shallow rooted.

If you are looking for a deep tap rooted perennial, you might also consider chicory.

Thanks,

Jack

dgallow
12-04-2012, 02:16 PM
Most of the soil improvement with clover will occur in the aerobic zone which is the depth at which a wooden fence post rots. That depth can vary a bunch with soil type, climate, and past management etc. A medium rooted clover may only grow shallow roots (or shallow nodules) in some soils yet grow deep roots (deeper nodules) in another soil...all depends on the subsoil limitations and thier severity. The best answer is to dig plants carefully in good vs poor soil areas and monitor root depth, then soil sample the lower zones to help identify problems and look for compacted layers etc. Simply put the depth of sustainable tilth (Proper Ca + OM = proper soil air and water) will deptermine feeder root depth/nodulation.

Here with a 2-3 yr program of white clover, which goes summer dormant, we see the most change in C:N ratio at 0-4" depth and a slight change at the 4-8" depth compared to areas with no clover history. So it takes many years to build a deeper profile of aerobic activity with roots, esp with current drier than average weather trends.

For plots going into a spring planting containing soybeans or peas, we like an early maturing annual, such as crimson, in the fall blend (rye oats peas radish). The crimson will mature about the time of spring planting so max benefit of such will be attained. Hairy vetch is another option if one can manage the climbing biomass.

For plots NOT going into spring planting, we use a fall blend of red, white, arrowleaf, crimson, and alfalfa very similar to the recipe which Harper wrote about with rye, oats and radish. These plots are planted to a fall blend the next year....severity of weather determines the clover fate in summer. If grassy cool season weeds are NOT a problem then I just let cereal rye fully mature before clipping and enjoy a volunteer crop the next fall.

With a predominant brassica blend (radish turnip), I like winter peas for the legume and a small amount of rye as late winter cover.

Any blend containing peas or radish is NT drilled....otherwise seed is broadcast into standing cover then mowed.

D Hunter
12-04-2012, 09:50 PM
We are also using WR for it's dense fibrous root system. It traps excess N and builds humus. I am also using GHR on alternate years for it's depth of roots and opening up the soil to air and water. It however decays quickly and leaves very little residue to build humus. I suppose all this adds to the soil biologic activity.

I had assumed that planting several clovers together might take advantage of root systems growing to different levels. Thus, they might grow well together and not be in direct competition with each other.

We may or may not till these crops in. As the roots of last years crops decay, they will release trapped nutrients and leave new channels for air, water and this years roots to follow.
I am aware that sweet clover has a deep and thick root system, but as said above, it does not meet my deer feeding goals.
I was looking for comparisons on varieties mentioned. Thanks. "D"

dgallow
12-04-2012, 11:28 PM
D,

Yes, you understand the general attributes of each cover crop....very well stated.

But, have you actually dug these roots to see what they are doing in your soil right now?....or next spring? or last spring?

This is important because rye and radish roots can go lateral in some really tough shallow soil conditions...they also tolerate some soil conditions which clover roots won't venture....they grow in cooler soil conditions which moisture hangs around longer. End result is a main summer crop which 'doughts out early' on you or unidentified subsoil issues which may need other tweaking besides specific cover crops. Similar thing....on shallow soils withbig problems red clover or alfalfa won't give you much advatage over a white clover.

Roots are a virtual road map to soil problems.

broken580
12-05-2012, 08:02 AM
it get down that far. We are creating a new plot on my property next year that will be cleared by hand and then sprayed with roundup, I thought I would then load it up with pell lime and wondered if given time will the lime do its job.

CaveCreek
12-05-2012, 02:48 PM
D,
This is important because rye and radish roots can go lateral in some really tough shallow soil conditions...they also tolerate some soil conditions which clover roots won't venture....they grow in cooler soil conditions which moisture hangs around longer. End result is a main summer crop which 'doughts out early' on you or unidentified subsoil issues which may need other tweaking besides specific cover crops. Similar thing....on shallow soils withbig problems red clover or alfalfa won't give you much advatage over a white clover.Roots are a virtual road map to soil problems.

Umm, I'm not sure I could agree with that. White clover in of itself does not necessarily tolerate the same climatic conditions. Obviously white is doing to go dormant, but I would typically take red, sweet, or alfalfa on a shallow soil, any day of the week compared to white clover. Especially in an establishment yr. White clover does not fair well in YEAR 1 comparisions, to other legumes.

DH: Red, Sweet, and Alfalfa all have bettter roots systems for accomplishing "deeper" rooting. As Gallow mentions, depth of rooting though, is always going to end up dependent on the condition of the soil. In some cases, a fully prepared seedbed can be more optimal, in getting the organic matter off to a better start (i.e. with clay/compacted soils). Ripping/subsoilin, followed by shalllow overall tillage, can also advantgeous. The key, when using any type of deep tillage efforts, is to make sure and send some substantial roots down those depth chanels as quickly as possibly. And that is going to be done with things like winter rye and radish.
Even when and if you are going to be focusing using legumes, you still want something else that will send roots down deep, faster, than most of your legumes will. These fast and deep rooting plants are goign to be what keep those deeper channels open, after initial disturbance.

White clover is a shallow rooting legume, regardless of soil type that it's on. And if you look at others past history, you'll find that it typically does not perform on sandier soils?

What is your soil type by the way?

Crimson and Arrowleaf, also are going to root deeper than white, in my experience, but won't be nothing compared to the longer season legumes.

I had assumed that planting several clovers together might take advantage of root systems growing to different levels. Thus, they might grow well together and not be in direct competition with each other.
I had assumed that planting several clovers together might take advantage of root systems growing to different levels. Thus, they might grow well together and not be in direct competition with each other.
To certain extents, you are correct. It would be perfectly fine to utilize other legumes with the white clover, if you are ultimately wanting a perennial stand of white clover. However, if that is not your goal, then I would utilze other legumes.
We may or may not till these crops in. As the roots of last years crops decay, they will release trapped nutrients and leave new channels for air, water and this years roots to follow. I am aware that sweet clover has a deep and thick root system, but as said above, it does not meet my deer feeding goals.
Knowing more precisely what you will be doing, would be helpful. May or may not till? So are you desiring a perennial crop? A re-seeding crop? Planning on planting other subsequent crops, but just broadcasting over the top, or drilling into?

I'm lost on your sweetclover comment, as I didn't see any where else where you mentioned it not "meeting deer feeding goals."

HAve you tried it? In my experience, they may ignore it at first. But in future seasons begin to utilize it. If is a good fail safe forage, that offers green nutrition when all other plants seemingly are barren of protein (from summer drought). The coumarin in the plant is what deters use. It's a bad taste to the mouth, but not actually a bad forage.

In your efforts I would test everything out, and while I am a big proponent on focussing on what grows best, and is most preferred... I encourage a multiple yr testing stage for everyone, depending on your needs of the forage planted.

Don't forget about hairy vetch. It is a deep rooting annual, and in some cases can re-seed well. I can't say that I find it very preferred however, as a whitetail forage. It is slow growing in the fall, and kind of a fragile plant. During this young stage, it can easily be grazed out, not because of any preference to it, only according to it's week seedling characteristics. However, come springtime, if survived, it is a serious and tenaciously growing legume, that can root deeply.

I don't have any exact rooting depths persay, but I would put these plants in this order of rooting depth: Sweetclover, Alfalfa, Red Clover, White Clover. Alfalfa can certainly root deeper than Sweet, over time (if it survives) but I believe Sweetclover will establish its deep root system, more quickly.

Hope this helps.

dgallow
12-05-2012, 08:07 PM
Umm, I'm not sure I could agree with that. White clover in of itself does not necessarily tolerate the same climatic conditions. Obviously white is doing to go dormant, but I would typically take red, sweet, or alfalfa on a shallow soil, any day of the week compared to white clover. Especially in an establishment yr. White clover does not fair well in YEAR 1 comparisions, to other legumes.

My point is that the effective soil feeder root depth is the limitation here....deep rooting forage legume potential is still held at say 4" depth where sufficient nutrients and aerobic conditions reside. Red and alflafa MAY go into summer dormancy here about the same time as white clover, but with enough energy in the crown (perhaps stored water also) to regerate in late summer/fall....chicory is the same....on some soils the crowns won't make it through summer. If conditions don't get overly hot, then we can get 2-4 weeks more growth from the deep rooted types. These are side by side observation in the same soil types over several years. White sweet clover will normally be in late repro stage when summer heat sets in....which is past the palatablity stage deer prefer....I don't plant it but it is in some native bottomland areas.

I think D has mainly sandy soils so major restrictions to root depth may not be the issue...building OM to retain water and nutrients a bigger goal. But, I promise if cereal rye and radish have a problem rooting deep then most other forages will have the same issue....best to dig and let the roots be your guide.

My soils are shallow like that because sandstone is the primary parent rock....even trees don't put down many deep roots. Real hard to turn around 300 mill yrs of soil developement.

CaveCreek
12-06-2012, 08:20 PM
When ya hit a rock, you hit a rock. But I've never seen white clover survive the conditions that chicory, alfalfa, and sweet clover survive. I would still always count on a more extensive root system from the others (in yr one ) compared to white, and also count on greater plant resiliency compared to white, in yr one.

Whoever produces the most root in the 1st growing season, gets my greatest affection.

And p.s. Gallow, I still bet there is a legume better suited for your needs, than white clover, in terms of your pasture needs. ; )
Don't ask me how I know. :D

D Hunter
12-06-2012, 10:27 PM
I got three properties I am involved in building soil on. #1 is in GA and got clearcut in the last 4 months. Soil is clay mixed with sand. I always thought you had sandy soil or clay soil but this is both with rocks for intertainment. Hard packed by dozens of 18 wheelers and log skidders. We have WR on it now but not much. We seeded it and dragged it in as best we could after the logging equipment left. Almost no rain in NGA all fall. It is about a month old and about two inches tall and a single blade. We hope to till it and plant red clover, BW, IC peas and oats this spring. Disc and start Wr and maybe a mixture of clovers next fall. This property can expect to be subsoiled or tilled for the next few years to incorporate some OM into the top few inches and break it up a bit.

#2 Is a couple of food plots in WNC that were good woods soil with stumps removed about 5 years ago. It is looking pretty good. Clay based with plenty of rock. Topsoil is nice with good OM in the top 5 inches. Always wanting to build it up a little more. It is mountain land and erosion is a concern. I want lots of channels so a big rain can still find holes to get into without carrying all the topsoil into the creek. RIght now it is in a mixture of Red(persist from Welter), durana, Kopu II, Alice clover and Oasis chicory. WR and GHR in one clover patch and WW in the other. Considering if crimson, arrow leaf, or alfalfa should be in the mix. This area may not be tilled again until weeds get to be a bother. It has not been tilled in the last 4 years. Mowed once or twice a year.

Third is where I live. It is pure NC red clay in its purest form. Slicker than grease through a goose in wet weather and a cracked plate with curled up edges in dry. It is now in 6 garden plots. Some are in red clover, some in crimson, some in Oats and one in my winter greens(turnips and Kale). No deer here to feed.


These soils are not going to be easy to dig into and check the root system out. As you take out a shovel full of clay and roots the smaller roots will break off and you will have a hard time telling how far down they go. At least that seems how it goes when I did dig into it to plant fruit trees over the last few years. I may try to dig right next to the clover plant and see how it goes.

I have not used sweet clover. It is not readily available here and not much planted. I have heard from people here and other places that deer do not use it much. I have also heard that it can easily become a weed and is not easily controlled by herbicides. I have enough invasives on my place now without me planting more. Food plot spaces and flat ground is limited and I do not want to waste space on something that the deer will not eat. There is no alfalfa in this country. I understand there is some pest or another that prevent it from being viable here. I do understand there are new varieties that are more suitable for the south these days. Again none that are common here or seed you can buy at local feed and seed. Any ideas on alfalfa for the south? Thanks, "D"

CaveCreek
12-06-2012, 11:39 PM
BullDog505, Tecomate's X-42.

But I think there are likely several out these days by other companies, that simply will perform better than yester years alfalfas.

Disease will always be an issue for alfalfa in the south, and in the south east.

As for sweetclover, I couldn't blame you, but I have yet to have any become a problem anywhere I have planted, or seen it planted. To be quite honest, in your climate, I think it may be too wet for it to really spread and proliferate.

D Hunter
12-07-2012, 02:41 PM
NC can be very wet. GA can be a lot like TX. Hot and dry. "D"