Trifolium alexandrinum L.

Berseem Clover field flowering - Eqypt - Ates
Symbol: 
TRAL6
Group: 
Dicot
Family: 
Fabaceae
Uses: 
Pasture
Hay
Silage
Mixture
Monoculture
Soil Improvement (Green manure)
Soil Protection (Cover Crop)
Pollinators
Description: 

High-quality, fast-growing summer or winter annual legume from the Mediterranean.  Mostly grown in subtropical irrigated farming systems. Also known as Egyptian clover.  Erect or ascending sparsely hairy stems that may exceed 4 feet (1.2 m) in height. Similar nutritive value to alfalfa without causing bloat in ruminant species. Good protein source (15-20% DM) 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. “Bee-friendly” since blossoms, unlike alfalfa, have no tripping mechanism and offer a diet meeting all their nutritional needs. Due to fast germination and tendency for winter-killing, berseem can be used as a “nurse crop” for alfalfa plantings.

Identification

Type: 
Legume
Life cycle: 
Summer annual
Winter annual
Growth Season: 
Cool
Identification Characteristics: 

Inflorescence is an elliptical clustered head formed from cream to yellow-colored flowers. Alternate leaves with oblong, pubescent leaflets 1.5-2 inches (4-5 cm) long and 0.8-1.2 inches wide (2-3 cm). 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; 160,000/lb (352,000/kg). Roots are primarily shallow taproots (4-6 inches; 10-15 cm).

Growth Habit and Stand Life

Growth Habit and Persistence: 

Erect or ascending stems to 32 inches (80 cm). Winter or summer annual.

Production Profile: 

Seeding rate for pure stands 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) berseem clover if used in a mixture. 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 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 with 4-inch (10 cm) rollers 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.

When grown for seed production, lygus bugs have been a serious problem in California and virus outbreaks can occur during wet springs when grown as a winter annual.

Climate and Soil Suitability Zones

Climate Tolerances: 

Used as a winter annual in mild climate areas [USDA Plant Hardiness Zones (PHZ) 6b-12a; average annual extreme minimum temperature limit of -5 °F (-20 °C)] and as a summer annual in colder areas (PHZ 2b-5b) (Fig. 1). 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.

Soil Tolerances: 

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.

Quantitative Tolerances: 

 

Suitability Class

Jan Min (°C) WA/SA*

July Max

C) WA/SA

Annual Precip (mm)**

Soil pH***

Soil Drainage 

Soil Salinity (dS/m)#

Well-suited

-17 / -30

32 / 26

1500

6.8-7.5

MWD-WD

1-2

Moderately suited

-19 / -35

35 / 28

1200

6.5-8.0

SPD-SED

2-3

Marginally suited

-21 / -40

38 / 30

1000

6.0-8.5

PD-SED

3-4

*Low temperature: as a winter annual: USDA Plant Hardiness Zones: 6b-12a; as a summer annual: PHZs 2b-5b 

   Rooting: taproot to 0.5 ft (15 cm).

*** Soil pH: Near neutral to moderately alkaline: 6.2-8.0. 

† Soil drainage: Tolerates water-logged soils. Soil drainage class abbreviations: 1=VPD, very poorly drained; 2=PD, poorly drained; 3=SPD, somewhat poorly drained; 4=MWD, moderately well drained, 5=WD, well drained; 6=SED, somewhat excessively drained; 7=ED, excessively drained. Percent relative yield for Berseem clover for the classes 1-7: 20, 50, 80, 100, 90, 55, 20, respectively.

# Soil salinity: Mildly saline soils (3-5 dS/m)

Suitability Maps

Berseem clover primary use areas as a summer or winter annual.

Source: Clark, Andy (ed.). 2007. Berseem Clover. In: Managing Cover Crops Profitably, 3rd ed. Sustainable Agriculture Network, Beltsville, MD.

Quality and Antiquality Factors

Quality Factors: 

Provides palatable and nutritious forage with a high feeding value; crude protein can be equivalent to alfalfa if harvested at early bloom stage.

Anti-quality Factors: 

Does not cause bloat.

Cultivars

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.

Species Selection Characteristics

Plant Hardiness Zones (cold tolerance): 
6b
7a
7b
8a
8b
9a
9b
10a
10b
11a
11b
12a
Soil pH Tolerance: 
Slightly acid to moderately alkaline, 6.1–8.4
Near neutral, 6.1–7.3
Soil Drainage Tolerance: 
poorly drained
somewhat poorly drained
moderately well drained
well drained
Flooding Tolerance: 
3-6 days
Soil Salinity Tolerance: 
Moderately tolerant, 3–6 dS/m
Suitable Management Level: 
High
Medium
Annual Precipitation (inches): 
36 to 40
40 to 50
50 to 60
60 to 70
Heat Zone (July Mean Max Temperature): 
77 to 80 °F
80 to 84 °F
84 to 88 °F
88 to 92 °F

Image Gallery

Resources

Publications: 

Albert Lea Seed. 2018. Berseem Clover (Trifolium alexandrinum). http://www.alseed.com/UserFiles/Documents/Product%20Info%20Sheets-PDF/Berseem%20Clover-2012.pdf

Clark, Andy (ed.). 2007. Berseem Clover. In: Managing Cover Crops Profitably, 3rd ed. Sustainable Agriculture Network, Beltsville, MD. http://mccc.msu.edu/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/ManagingCoverCropsProfitably_berseemclover.pdf