Agronomy advice
05 June, 2024

Keeping clover in fine fettle

By: Philip Cosgrave

White clover is being increasingly used on intensively grazed farms where the benefits can be substantial, lowering both the cost of growing grass and the carbon emissions intensity of milk produced. Managing nutrient and fertiliser inputs is a key component in establishing and maintaining clover in these swards successfully.

Cows in a field
Cows in a field

Incorporating more clover into grazing paddocks requires some subtle changes in management style to manage this white clover successfully. The presence of clover in paddocks will not necessarily eradicate your need for fertiliser N applications over the summer months, there’s a sliding scale as to how much nitrogen you need to apply depending upon the clover content of the sward, and this will vary from paddock to paddock (see table below).

Don't forget about P & K

We might not need the level of nitrogen that perennial ryegrass(PRG) only swards require to maintain a high lievel of grass growth,but white clover does require a higher degree of soil fertility to perform and last in the sward. Clover does not benefit from the rooting mass of PRG and so without good soil P & K fertility it will be unable to establish itself in paddocks and remain there, meaning that you’ll miss out on the benefits of nitrogen fixing and reduced input costs.

By applying P & K little and often during the growing period you are providing clover with sufficient nutrients to establish itself and remain persistent in paddocks.

A little nitrogen goes a long way

So you may now have paddocks of happily cohabitating white clover and PRG. You now need to calculate how much nitrogen your grass needs to ensure you don’t sacrifice grass growth. But given that many fertiliser products contain a high rate of nitrogen, it can be difficult to balance P, K & S requirements with the lower N.

‘Clover is a shallow rooted species with around 15% of the root density of perennial ryegrass making it much less competitive for soil nutrients. Regular applications of a P & K compound fertiliser throughout the growing season are necessary for high levels of clover productivity and biological N fixation.’

Dr. James Humphrey’s and Dan Barrett (Farm manager) – Teagasc, Solohead Farm

Yara Recommendation

To effectively and evenly supply a low rate of nitrogenas well as sufficient potassium, phosphate and sulphur,we would recommend YaraMila 52 S. This fertiliser grade is a complex compound fertiliser, so all nutrients are in every particle ensuring an even distribution of nutrients across the paddock.

With YaraMila 52 S

  • P & K to boost clover establishment and persistance 
  • 4 nutrients in every particle - perfect for low N application rates
  • A faster growth response with Nitrate

White Clover/ PRG fertiliser recommendation 

Sward clover content (%) June July August
  Yara Product Rate Yara Product Rate Yara Product Rate

YaraMila 52 S 100 kg/ha 

YaraBela Nutri Booster 80 kg/ha

YaraMila 52 S 100 kg/ha

10% YaraMila 52 S 75 kg/ha YaraMila 52 S 50 kg/ha YaraMila 52 S 75 kg/ha
15% YaraMila 52 S 50 kg/ha YaraMila 52 S 30 kg/ha YaraMila 52 S 55 kg/ha
20% YaraMila 52 S 30 kg/ha YaraMila 52 S 30 kg/ha YaraMila 52 S 35 kg/ha