Kura Clover: A New Pasture Legume for Ontario?


Factsheet - ISSN 1198-712X   -   Copyright Queen's Printer for Ontario
Agdex#: 125
Publication Date: 09/98
Order#: 98-049
Last Reviewed: July 2012
History:
Written by: Jim Johnston and Matthew Bowman - New Liskeard Agricultural Research Station

Table of Contents

  1. Kura Clover
  2. Forage Yield
  3. Mixture Composition
  4. Quality
  5. Summary
  6. For More Information

Kura Clover

Kura clover (Trifolium ambiguum M. Bieb.) is a forage legume that appears to be well-adapted for use in pastures. Kura clover is similar in growth habit to white clover, except that kura clover spreads underground by means of rhizomes while white clover spreads on the surface by means of stolons. Kura clover can cause bloat similar to other clovers. Kura clover has a reputation of being extremely winterhardy and quite competitive under intensive defoliation. In 1993, we began our initial evaluation of kura clover in small plot trials. Our findings to date are reported below. Our work on kura clover is conducted in cooperation with Speare Seeds of Harriston, ON.

We established kura clover evaluation tests in 1993, 1994, 1995 and 1997. The 1995 seeding was abandoned due to poor nodulation. The species of Rhizobium bacteria required for kura clover does not occur naturally in Ontario soils. Proper inoculation procedures are therefore very important in achieving successful stands. The 1993 and 1994 seedings were generally slow to establish, but the 1997 seeding was quite successful in the seeding year. As with other forage legumes, proper seedbed preparation, seeding depth, and soil firming are critical in establishing kura clover. It seems unlikely that this species will frost seed successfully, although it has not been tried to date.

Forage Yield

Based on the 1993 seeding, kura clover mixtures produced yields equal to or greater than other common pasture mixtures (Table 1). In the 1994 seedings, kura clover mixtures have produced yields similar to orchard-white clover mixtures but less than trefoil-brome mixtures. Kura clover is a much smaller component of the 1994 plots than in the 1993 plots (see below). In 1997, three cuts were taken on all plots, while only 2 cuts per year were taken prior to 1997.

Table 1. Average dry matter yield (kg/ha) of pasture mixtures sown in 1993 and 1994.
Treatments

1993 Seeding
Ave.=94-=97

1993 Seeding
1997 only

1994 Seeding
Ave>95-=97

1994 Seeding
1997 only
Kura pure

5400

6415

5530

6580
Kura + Orchard

5850

7558

4760

5380
Kura + Brome

6860

7853

6560

5580
White Clover + Orchard

5160

6117

5290

4990
Trefoil + Brome

5630

6345

8780

6590

Mixture Composition

The legume content of the kura clover plots in the 1993 seeding was generally high and increased over time, while the trefoil declined (Table 2). Much of the grass present in the initial stand was killed out or damaged over the winter of 1993/1994. Kura survived quite well and has established almost complete ground cover in plots where the grass was killed.

Table 2. Percent legume in the first cut of pasture mixtures sown in 1993
Mixture

1995

1996

1997
Kura pure

85

99

92
Kura + Orchard

75

89

68
Kura + Brome

56

83

91
Wh. Clover + Orchard

24

11

31
Trefoil + Brome

75

60

44

 

In the 1994 seeding, kura clover formed only a small portion of the mixtures initially as the conditions were ideal for grass establishment that year (Table 3). Only trefoil formed a significant portion of the mixture during 1994. By cut 1 of 1996, kura had become more abundant in the brome mixtures but not in the orchard mixtures. By cut 2 of 1997, kura had increased in the orchard mixtures as well. It is likely that under more intensive defoliation the kura content would have increased even more.

Table 3. Percent legume in the first cut and second cut of pasture mixtures sow in 1994.
 

Cut 1 1994

Cut 1 1995

Cut 1 1996

Cut 2 1995

Cut 2 1997
Kura pure

-
 

65

-

66
Kura + Orchard

3

3

1

4

47
Kura + Brome

4

0

17

28

26
Wh. Clover + Orchard

12

5

19

34

39
Trefoil + Brome

46

33

36

67

68

 

Quality

Pure samples of kura clover, white clover, and trefoil were sampled following the 1994 seeding. There were only minor differences in forage quality of the pure species (Table 4).

Table 4. Quality of pure legumes, sampled 90 days after seeding.
Species

CP

ADF

NDF

Ca

P

K

Mg
Kura Clover

20.7

23.1

27.1

1.7

0.33

2.25

0.31
White Clover

23.9

21.1

24.6

1.2

0.34

2.37

0.31
Trefoil

19.8

21.6

27.9

1.7

0.25

2.25

0.43

 

Kura clover mixtures had forage quality that was equal to or superior to other mixtures (Table 5). The quality reported below for cut 1 in 1994 is heavily influenced by the grass content of the mixtures. Since kura clover mixtures were mostly grass in that test, the quality was relatively poor.

Table 5. Average crude protein and fibre levels of pasture mixtures from first two harvests - 1994 to 1996 at New Liskeard
  Cut 1 Cut 2

CP

ADF

NDF

CP

ADF

NDF
1993 Seeding
Kura pure
20.2 29.5 34.1 20.8 29.5 34.6
Kura + Orchard
19.0 31.3 38.3 19.3 31.3 39.7
Kura + Brome
16.4 33.7 46.7 19.6 30.6 38.2
Wh.Clover + Orchard
14.1 36.6 51.3 16.3 37.3 48.9
Trefoil + Brome
13.7 36.6 52 19.1 34.5 44.4
1994 Seeding
Kura pure
14.6 34.2 46 16.2 34.5 42.3
Kura + Orchard
11.4 37.9 59.6 13.3 38.8 55.4
Kura + Brome
9.6 39.3 63.1 13.9 36.2 52.4
Wh.Clover + Orchard
12.7 35.8 56.0 13.6 36.7 55.2
Trefoil + Brome
13.6 38.1 57.6 14.1 39.3 54.6

 

Summary

Kura clover appears to have potential as a pasture legume in Ontario. It survived the very severe winter of 1993/1994 when other pasture species were damaged. Kura clover seems slow to establish, but good stands can be achieved with proper seedbed preparation and seeding methods. Proper inoculation of kura clover seed before planting is critical to achieving well-nodulated plants. Kura clover generally thickens with time, although a good catch of grass seems to compete quite well in younger stands (<4 years old). Kura will completely take over stands where the companion grass is winter damaged. Forage yield and quality of kura clover mixtures is generally equal to or greater than other pasture mixtures, although yields will vary with mixture composition.

Currently studies are underway to determine the best grass mixtures and seeding rates for kura clover and tests have been established at sites where specific winter hazards are common (ie: flooding and heaving).


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