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This article in CS

  1. Vol. 48 No. 1, p. 1-13
    Received: Sept 27, 2007

    * Corresponding author(s): nltaylor@uky.edu
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A Century of Clover Breeding Developments in the United States

  1. Norman L. Taylor *
  1. Dep. Plant and Soil Sciences, Univ. of Kentucky-Lexington, KY, Kentucky Agric. Exp. Stn., Lexington, KY, 40546


The perennial clovers, red (Trifolium pratense L.) and white clover (T. repens L.), have been important legumes for livestock feeding in the United States during the past century, particularly in the eastern United States. Recently, sustainable agriculture, organic farming, integrated crop–livestock systems, and high nitrogen prices have stimulated interest in forage legumes. This paper describes the present status of clover improvement programs—their objectives, successes, short falls, and challenges for the future. One goal of most clover breeding programs is increased persistence (longevity of individual plants) because of its association with general adaptability and yield. Persistence, which limits life of clovers to about three to four years, is largely governed by programmed senescence but can be influenced somewhat by breeding for general adaptation to the area of use. New, more-adapted red clover cultivars have been bred in Wisconsin for use in the northern states, in Kentucky for the middle states, and in Florida for the southern states. For white clover, researchers in several states in the southeast have cooperated in the development of improved cultivars. The unique qualities of these improved species along with high seedling vigor, ease of establishment, and general competitiveness ensure that red and white clover will continue to be the major forage legumes of the United States and justify continued breeding efforts.

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