White clover (Trifolium repens L.) is an important stoloniferous pasture legume in the Great Lakes region of the United States, but it often has limited persistence. Researchers in New Zealand and Wales have found that in spring, compared with other seasons, white clover plants have reduced branching complexity and have the fewest buds that produce leaves. They therefore suggested that in spring the plants are most vulnerable to grazing and climatic stress. Because of severe winter and cool, wet spring weather in New York State, it was hypothesized that white clover plants would also be of low branching complexity, smaller and have low axillary bud activity in spring compared with later in the grazing season. To test this, growth of white clover was monitored in an orchard grass (Dactylis glomerata L.)/white clover pasture in New York that was rotationally grazed with dairy cows during the 1993 and 1994 grazing seasons. Three sets of plants were sampled. The first set consisted of forty random plants sampled before each grazing event. Stolon branching order, number of each stolon branching type and area the plant occupied were determined. Approximately each month before one grazing event, a separate set of 32 random plants was measured in the field to determine the area they occupied; these plants were then removed to the laboratory for the measurement of stolon order, number of each stolon type, stolon lengths, total number of growing points, number of taproots and adventitious roots, root position and above-ground dry matter. Once a month, 12 additional plants were removed to measure axillary bud activity at each node. Leaf development from nodes tended to increase from spring to summer. However, the stolon branching order of white clover plants was not simpler in spring compared with summer or autumn. In 1994 during and after a dry and hot period, white clover plants were smaller, of lower stolon branching order and had fewer roots. Climate and associated soil organism activity appear to explain the different white clover growth patterns observed in New York and New Zealand. Severe winters in New York limit earthworm activity and stolon burial, which is important in contributing to stolon/plant breakdown in New Zealand. During the years of this study in New York, a hot and dry period had the most negative effect on the growth pattern of white clover.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Agronomy and Crop Science
- Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law