How to encourage legumes
Presuming you have some legumes in your pasture already, you’ll need to know how to keep it flourishing. Some keys are managing spring growth and competition from grasses, providing adequate phosphorus and potassium nutrition, managing pH, and encouraging flowering, seed set and seedling recruitment in annual legumes like sub clover.
Factors that can work against clover composition are herbicide sensitivities, red-legged earthmite, and excessive trash or litter impeding germination at the autumn break.
We’ve prepared a sub clover management timeline to highlight some of these issues across the year.
Download the timeline [PDF]
In new sowings, another significant factor is avoiding excessive grass sowing rates and sowing enough legume. It’s important to innoculate legume seed with the newest strains of rhizobia (the bacteria that actually fix the nitrogen in legume root nodules) and ensure there’s enough molybdenum (the trace element the bacteria needs to fix nitrogen).
Knowing how to check if the ‘nitrogen factories’ are working effectively is also important. If they are working, the nodules on the legume roots will be flesh coloured on the outside and pink when cut to expose the inside. If this is not the case, some troubleshooting – perhaps starting with questions about molybdenum – may be required.