Mini Clover or microclover

Asked September 21, 2016, 8:10 PM EDT

Hello,
I've recent read about mini or micro clover, but still have questions about pros and cons of growing it.

1. Is Trifolium repens L. var. Pirouette the same as micro clover? With the copyright symbol on Mini clover does it mean it is genetically modified?

2. What are the pros and cons of planting a 100% micro cover as a turf replacement ground cover? Disease, insects, soil needs? Any special needs?

3. We are restoring a terraced (vegetable bed) area to its natural grade that slopes down to a creek and watershed (due to medical conditions). We want to put in a low maintenance "fire break" between the house and the rest of the hill that is covered with plants and grasses that grow up to 4 feet tall, (including fighting to mow and de-seed Blackberry, Tansy Ragwort, and Mammoth Red Clover). Mowing the hills is no longer a physical reality, so want the top 20 feet of the hill closest to the house to have vegetation than needs mowing only occasionally. Is micro clover the way to go? Is there a low growing grass to add to the mix?( It will not be turned under as a cover crop.)

4. Planting a hardy ground cover like Arctostaphylos, Cotonester, Salal or other low growers will take too long to cover the area, plus the cost is prohibitive at the density needed.

5. The site is full sun, south facing, with some morning shade. The soil is hard packed clay, acidic, modified (poorly) with compost and top soil mix. Trees in the area have Wet Wood, Verticillium Wilt, and a few lost to fire blight. What impact might these diseases potentially have on clover?

6. Additionally, moles have an extensive tunnel network, despite repeated trappings. Other aggressive plant foraging wildlife include deer, coyote, bobcat, skunks, racoon, squirrels, possums, mice and voles, and many native birds so their foraging habits need consideration. Unfortunately, they don't eat blackberry or Tansy, only my flowers, shrubs, and vegetables!

Any assistance, or referrals for further reading would be greatly appreciated.
Also, is the university growing any plots of it in Corvallis that I could come see?

Thank you for your wonderful service.

Washington County Oregon

1 Response

Those are a lot of great questions! I will try to chew through them one-by-one.

1) Is Trifolium repens L. var. Pirouette the same as micro clover? With the copyright symbol on Mini clover does it mean it is genetically modified? Yes, Pirouette is considered a micro-clover. In the strictest sense, all of our cultivated crops are genetically modified through selective breeding practices. In terms of genetic engineering, I am unaware of any commercially available clover varieties. I don't think it could be considered "GMO." The Copyright symbol would indicate that it is a privately bred and marketed variety. This differs from public domain varieties that do not have licenses or royalties attached to them.

2. What are the pros and cons of planting a 100% micro cover as a turf replacement ground cover? Disease, insects, soil needs? Any special needs? One concern I would have is already addressed later in your questions. I would have concerns about mice and voles really working the planting over. Both of them seem to do very well in perennial legumes. I might also have concerns about how well it would withstand traffic. Planting a broadleaf also removes the opportunity to treat for unwanted broadleaf weeds. To keep the clover, you will have to keep the less desirables as well.

3. We are restoring a terraced (vegetable bed) area to its natural grade that slopes down to a creek and watershed (due to medical conditions). We want to put in a low maintenance "fire break" between the house and the rest of the hill that is covered with plants and grasses that grow up to 4 feet tall, (including fighting to mow and de-seed Blackberry, Tansy Ragwort, and Mammoth Red Clover). Mowing the hills is no longer a physical reality, so want the top 20 feet of the hill closest to the house to have vegetation than needs mowing only occasionally. Is micro clover the way to go? Is there a low growing grass to add to the mix?( It will not be turned under as a cover crop.) A bunchgrass might be a great alternative in the buffer area. I have always liked orchard grass because it is territorial in its growth habit and seems to be pretty durable. It might be a nice added crop if planted at a low rate. A clover-only planting would worry me in regard to its ability to keep the weeds out. I am afraid it would be crowded out on its own.

5. The site is full sun, south facing, with some morning shade. The soil is hard packed clay, acidic, modified (poorly) with compost and top soil mix. Trees in the area have Wet Wood, Verticillium Wilt, and a few lost to fire blight. What impact might these diseases potentially have on clover? The only one I would worry about in clover would be Vert. There are many different types of Vert, however, and the type affecting the trees may be different than the type that would affect clover.

6. Additionally, moles have an extensive tunnel network, despite repeated trappings. Other aggressive plant foraging wildlife include deer, coyote, bobcat, skunks, racoon, squirrels, possums, mice and voles, and many native birds so their foraging habits need consideration. Unfortunately, they don't eat blackberry or Tansy, only my flowers, shrubs, and vegetables! All of your herbivores will have a taste for clover. Interestingly enough, (I wouldn't believe it if I didn't see it) I was in a pasture today where the landowner is following his cattle with chickens. The reason for the chickens is a different story. However, as they were picking along, I watched a few of them feeding on red clover leaves. That was fascinating to me! It seems to be pretty popular amongst grazers. Might be many opportunities for great photos!

I am unaware of any clover work being done on campus. Clover is primarily used as a legume component in grazing systems and cover crops as it provides forage diversity and fixes nitrogen as well. It seems to have a niche but the only standalone plantings I have seen are in clover seed production fields. In that setting, it is only utilized for 2 crop years before removal. That would also leave me hesitant about its staying power as the primary stabilization tool without some grasses to help round things out.

Hopefully, I have covered most everything. If I missed anything or have created other questions, please feel free to holler!


Bill