High-quality, fast-growing summer or winter annual legume. Also known as Egyptian clover. Mostly erect stems that grow to 4 feet (1.2 m). Similar nutritive value to alfalfa without causing bloat. Good protein source grazed fresh or cut for hay and/or ensiled. Also used as a cover and green manure crop due to vigorous growth and nitrogen-fixation. Can be used as a “nurse crop” for alfalfa plantings or inter-seeded into declining stands.
Inflorescence is a head with cream to yellow-colored flowers. Leaves have oblong, pubescent leaflets. Stipules are pointed with red and green veination. Stems are hollow and pubescent, branching from the base. Pods contain a single purplish-red seed similar in size to crimson clover seed. Has shallow taproots.
Most cultivars are not tolerant of frost and will winterkill in continental climates (upper mid-west). Although ‘Bigbee’ a higher percentage of hard seed and greater winter hardiness than some cultivars it suffers cold injury at 25 °F (-4 °C) and winterkills prior to the new, cold-tolerant cultivar ‘Frosty.’ These more cold-tolerant cultivars are used in small grain>corn>soybean rotations in the Midwest, with good regrowth following oat companion crop harvest. For use as a green manure crop in mild climates, ‘Multicut’ contributed an average of 280 lb N/acre (314 kg/ha) in a six-year trial in California with six cuttings per year. As a grazing crop in the south, ‘Bigbee’ produces longer into the spring than other legumes, extending cuttings into late May or early June in Mississippi.
Cultivar ‘Joe Burton’ is resistant to virus. ‘Bigbee’ is susceptible to crown rot and other root diseases. Berseem clover show little resistance to root-knot nematodes.
Cultivar ‘Frosty’ is a cold-tolerant berseem clover, recently reported to have survived -16 °F (-27 °C) under snow in Purdue University trials.
Used as a winter annual in mild climate areas [USDA Plant Hardiness Zones (PHZ) 6b-12a and as a summer annual in colder areas (PHZ 2b-5b). Less drought tolerant than alfalfa. In non-irrigated systems, requires a minimum of 40 inches (1000 mm) annual precipitation, with yield proportional to available moisture.
Best suited to medium-silt loam to clay-loam soils. Tolerates wet, poorly drained soils. Suitable pH range 6.5 to 7.5. Tolerates saline conditions better than red clover or alfalfa.
For pure stands, seed 8-12 lb/a (9-13.5 kg/ha) if drilled, 15-20 lb/a (17-22 kg/ha) if broadcast. Oats can be used as a companion crop; 30-60 lb/a (34-67 kg/ha). Use 3-5 lb/a (3.4-5.6 kg/ha) in mixtures. With irrigation, production potential is up to 8 tons DM/a. In grazing systems, graze before flowering when 12-15 inches (30-38 cm) tall and basal shoots begin to grow and no closer than 3 inches (8 cm). For hay or silage, cut at 50-60 days after planting (when companion crop is in early heading stage).
Most berseem clover cultivars die when exposed to temperatures below 20 °F (-7 °C) for several days. To kill berseem clover prior to planting fall crops, wait for it to die after blooming, use multiple diskings or apply herbicides. Rolling killed less berseem clover than hairy vetch or crimson clover when the legumes had more than 10 inches (25 cm) of stem lying on the ground.
Does not cause bloat.