University of Missouri Extension

G4642, Reviewed October 1993

Establishing Birdsfoot Trefoil in Bluegrass Sod

Howell N. Wheaton
Department of Agronomy

Birdsfoot trefoil and Kentucky bluegrass will produce three times as much beef as unimproved bluegrass. Even heavily fertilized bluegrass will produce only 65 percent as much animal product as trefoil-bluegrass combination. See Table 1.

Table 1
Performance of steers grazing birdsfoot trefoil (1964-68).1

Treatment Average daily gain Steer days per acre Beef per acre
Unimproved grass 1.18 pounds 67 80 pounds
Improved grass plus N, P and K 1.29 pounds 187 238 pounds
Birdsfoot trefoil plus P and K 1.70 pounds 215 362 pounds
1Iowa State Data from Albia Experiment Station

Trefoil is especially adapted to Shelby and Grundy soil types and other similar soils of northern Missouri. A major problem has been the difficulty of obtaining good trefoil stands. Its high requirement for light during the first 60 to 90 days after seeding is largely responsible for this. This can be overcome by band-seeding well inoculated trefoil seed in a partially tilled bluegrass sod during late February or early March.

Getting a stand

Seed 4 to 6 pounds of Dawn or Empire trefoil in late February or early March. Damage from frost is not as severe a threat to the new seedings as competition from weeds if the trefoil is seeded later.

Band seeding Figure 1
Band seeding places the seed directly over the phosphate fertilizer where seedling roots can easily reach the fertilizer. This seeding method usually results in a 30 to 50 percent increase in seedling survival, more vigorous plants and higher initial yield. (A) Legume seed. (B) companion crop seed. (C) fertilizer

Seeds placed over bands of phosphorus will grow rapidly and develop strong root systems. They will survive competition from grass, weeds and drought better than broadcast seedings.

Take off the drag chains; they scatter the seed away from the fertilizer. The new seeding may be packed or rolled, but if the seeding is made early, it is not necessary. Freezing and thawing will soon cover the small trefoil seed with soil.

Let the new trefoil rest throughout the month of September and early October. This is a critical time in the life of a trefoil plant. The growth that occurs during this period may be used during late October and November.

Chemical weed control is excellent for successful seeding trefoil in an established grass sod. However, Eptam or Balan will kill new seedlings of other grasses such as timothy or orchardgrass if seeded with the trefoil. Post-emergence 2,4-DB may be safely used on grass-legume mixtures for broadleaf weed control without harming the new seedlings.

Seeding rates for such permanent pasture mixtures are: five pounds birdsfoot trefoil and two pounds timothy (or three pounds orchardgrass) per acre.

Avoid using oats or wheat when seeding trefoil unless the companion crop can be removed by grazing.

G4642 Establishing Birdsfoot Trefoil in Bluegrass Sod | University of Missouri Extension

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