Forage Quality and Morphological Components of Diverse Clovers during Primary Growth
- Geoffrey E. Brink and
- Timothy E. Fairbrother
Forage quality of dover (Trifolium spp.) may be influenced by changes in nutrient concentration of morphological fraction as a function of growth habit or life cycle. We compared the dry matter (DM) accumulation trends of four clovers differing in growth habit and life cycle, and determined the influence of plant fraction nutritive value on total forage quality. Primary spring growth of berseem (T. alexandrinum L.), red (T. pratense L.), subterranean (T. subterraneum L.), and white (T. repens L.) clovers was harvested in each of 2 yr beginning in late March, and thereafter every 10 d (eight harvests total). Digestible dry matter (DDM) and crude protein (CP) concentration determined for leaf, petiole, stem, and reproductive fractions, and total forage of each species at each harvest. Total DM accumulation of berseem and red clover increased linearly to a maximum of 547 and 407 g DM m−2, respectively, by Day 61, while that of subterranean and white clover increased nonlinearly to a maximum of 336 and 219 g DM m−2, respectively, by Day 51. Days to maximum accumulation of stem DM in erect species and petiole DM in prostrate species corresponded with maximum total DM accumulation in the respective species. Leaf-to-stem weight ratio ranged from 0.27 to 1.42 for berseem clover and from 1.10 to 3.04 for white clover, although quadratic trends for leaf DM accumulation for the two species were similar. Mean DDM of berseem and red clover forage declined 2.0 g kg−1 d−1. Based on trends for dry matter accumulation and nutrient concentration of the leaf fraction, subterranean and white clover merit consideration equal to berseem and red clover as pasture legumes.
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