Birdsfoot Trefoil

Lotus corniculatus

Technical Data Sheet
Technical Data Sheet

Birdsfoot Trefoil

Lotus corniculatus

Birdsfoot Trefoil

Lotus corniculatus

Technical Data Sheet

Description

Purpose & Fit

Birdsfoot trefoil can be grazed, cut for hay, or used for silage. It will thrive in areas that alfalfa and other forage legumes cannot grow due to soil acidity and moisture. Soils with low pH, poor drainage, poor native fertility, or fragipans prone to heaving are suitable locations for planting birdsfoot trefoil. In similar well-drained, fertile soils, birdsfoot trefoil will not yield as well as alfalfa – 50 – 80% of what alfalfa would do on the same ground. Birdsfoot trefoil can reseed itself and does not cause bloat in animals.

Total digestible nutrients will be greater than alfalfa depending on the growth stage, and trefoil will not lose quality with maturity as fast as alfalfa. Even after going to seed, forage quality and protein content remain high. Companion grasses have seen increased yield and protein when planted with birdsfoot trefoil. Research shows more significant daily gains and meat yield per acre in heifers and sheep than alfalfa. The most tolerant legume of wet springs, dry, hot summers, and cold winters, birdsfoot trefoil, is also low in estrogens that cause fertility problems.

A high concentration of tannins composed of procyanidins protect proteins from rumen degradation, reduce urinary N excretion, prevent bloat, and boost the effectiveness of worming medications. The level of tannins can vary according to multiple factors and will change from season to season. Greater than 1% of total diet DM comprised of these condensed tannins will reduce feed intake, digestibility, weight gain, and wool growth. Compared to other legumes such as sainfoin, birdsfoot trefoil contains less fiber and more degradable protein. Organic matter digestibility is comparable to alfalfa and sainfoin. Dairy cow and ewe diets containing trefoil have increased milk yields, protein, and solids-not-fat compared to diets containing alfalfa or red clover silage. Grazing meat sheep and lambs on forage legumes rather than on ryegrass will make it possible to increase the growth rate and reduce time to finishing without a decrease in quality.

Growth Pattern

A perennial legume, Birdsfoot trefoil, is taprooted with many lateral roots that make plants less prone to heaving. Lateral roots occur in the top two feet of the soil profile with the entire root system (including the taproot) going as deep as four feet. A single crown can produce up to two hundred stems that grow up to two and a half feet tall above ground. Each leaf has five leaflets – three at the tip and two at the base of each petiole. Fourteen daylight hours are needed to initiate flowering, and flowers range in yellow coloration with some occasionally tinged red.

Interseeding

Not Recommended

Did You Know?

Seeds/Lb: 375,000 – 500,000

Description

Purpose & Fit

Birdsfoot trefoil can be grazed, cut for hay, or used for silage. It will thrive in areas that alfalfa and other forage legumes cannot grow due to soil acidity and moisture. Soils with low pH, poor drainage, poor native fertility, or fragipans prone to heaving are suitable locations for planting birdsfoot trefoil. In similar well-drained, fertile soils, birdsfoot trefoil will not yield as well as alfalfa – 50 – 80% of what alfalfa would do on the same ground. Birdsfoot trefoil can reseed itself and does not cause bloat in animals.

Total digestible nutrients will be greater than alfalfa depending on the growth stage, and trefoil will not lose quality with maturity as fast as alfalfa. Even after going to seed, forage quality and protein content remain high. Companion grasses have seen increased yield and protein when planted with birdsfoot trefoil. Research shows more significant daily gains and meat yield per acre in heifers and sheep than alfalfa. The most tolerant legume of wet springs, dry, hot summers, and cold winters, birdsfoot trefoil, is also low in estrogens that cause fertility problems.

A high concentration of tannins composed of procyanidins protect proteins from rumen degradation, reduce urinary N excretion, prevent bloat, and boost the effectiveness of worming medications. The level of tannins can vary according to multiple factors and will change from season to season. Greater than 1% of total diet DM comprised of these condensed tannins will reduce feed intake, digestibility, weight gain, and wool growth. Compared to other legumes such as sainfoin, birdsfoot trefoil contains less fiber and more degradable protein. Organic matter digestibility is comparable to alfalfa and sainfoin. Dairy cow and ewe diets containing trefoil have increased milk yields, protein, and solids-not-fat compared to diets containing alfalfa or red clover silage. Grazing meat sheep and lambs on forage legumes rather than on ryegrass will make it possible to increase the growth rate and reduce time to finishing without a decrease in quality.

Growth Pattern

A perennial legume, Birdsfoot trefoil, is taprooted with many lateral roots that make plants less prone to heaving. Lateral roots occur in the top two feet of the soil profile with the entire root system (including the taproot) going as deep as four feet. A single crown can produce up to two hundred stems that grow up to two and a half feet tall above ground. Each leaf has five leaflets – three at the tip and two at the base of each petiole. Fourteen daylight hours are needed to initiate flowering, and flowers range in yellow coloration with some occasionally tinged red.

Interseeding

Not Recommended

Did You Know?

Seeds/Lb: 375,000 – 500,000

Description

Purpose & Fit

Birdsfoot trefoil can be grazed, cut for hay, or used for silage. It will thrive in areas that alfalfa and other forage legumes cannot grow due to soil acidity and moisture. Soils with low pH, poor drainage, poor native fertility, or fragipans prone to heaving are suitable locations for planting birdsfoot trefoil. In similar well-drained, fertile soils, birdsfoot trefoil will not yield as well as alfalfa – 50 – 80% of what alfalfa would do on the same ground. Birdsfoot trefoil can reseed itself and does not cause bloat in animals.

Total digestible nutrients will be greater than alfalfa depending on the growth stage, and trefoil will not lose quality with maturity as fast as alfalfa. Even after going to seed, forage quality and protein content remain high. Companion grasses have seen increased yield and protein when planted with birdsfoot trefoil. Research shows more significant daily gains and meat yield per acre in heifers and sheep than alfalfa. The most tolerant legume of wet springs, dry, hot summers, and cold winters, birdsfoot trefoil, is also low in estrogens that cause fertility problems.

A high concentration of tannins composed of procyanidins protect proteins from rumen degradation, reduce urinary N excretion, prevent bloat, and boost the effectiveness of worming medications. The level of tannins can vary according to multiple factors and will change from season to season. Greater than 1% of total diet DM comprised of these condensed tannins will reduce feed intake, digestibility, weight gain, and wool growth. Compared to other legumes such as sainfoin, birdsfoot trefoil contains less fiber and more degradable protein. Organic matter digestibility is comparable to alfalfa and sainfoin. Dairy cow and ewe diets containing trefoil have increased milk yields, protein, and solids-not-fat compared to diets containing alfalfa or red clover silage. Grazing meat sheep and lambs on forage legumes rather than on ryegrass will make it possible to increase the growth rate and reduce time to finishing without a decrease in quality.

Growth Pattern

A perennial legume, Birdsfoot trefoil, is taprooted with many lateral roots that make plants less prone to heaving. Lateral roots occur in the top two feet of the soil profile with the entire root system (including the taproot) going as deep as four feet. A single crown can produce up to two hundred stems that grow up to two and a half feet tall above ground. Each leaf has five leaflets – three at the tip and two at the base of each petiole. Fourteen daylight hours are needed to initiate flowering, and flowers range in yellow coloration with some occasionally tinged red.

Interseeding

Not Recommended

Did You Know?

Seeds/Lb: 375,000 – 500,000

Adaptation

Climate & Soil

Birdsfoot trefoil can grow from sea level to an altitude of 3500m. Tolerant to wet, acidic soil, Birdsfoot trefoil also has some drought and salinity tolerance, although shade tolerance is low. In soils with a pH of less than 5.6, molybdenum deficiencies may result. Birdsfoot Trefoil can also perform well in arid areas, although results may be varied.

Soil pH: 5.4 – 6.5

Optimum Growth Range: 68°F – 86°F

Adaptation

Climate & Soil

Birdsfoot trefoil can grow from sea level to an altitude of 3500m. Tolerant to wet, acidic soil, Birdsfoot trefoil also has some drought and salinity tolerance, although shade tolerance is low. In soils with a pH of less than 5.6, molybdenum deficiencies may result. Birdsfoot Trefoil can also perform well in arid areas, although results may be varied.

Soil pH: 5.4 – 6.5

Optimum Growth Range: 68°F – 86°F

Adaptation

Climate & Soil

Birdsfoot trefoil can grow from sea level to an altitude of 3500m. Tolerant to wet, acidic soil, Birdsfoot trefoil also has some drought and salinity tolerance, although shade tolerance is low. In soils with a pH of less than 5.6, molybdenum deficiencies may result. Birdsfoot Trefoil can also perform well in arid areas, although results may be varied.

Soil pH: 5.4 – 6.5

Optimum Growth Range: 68°F – 86°F

Establishment

Planting

Shallow plowing or thorough discing is needed to create a good, firm seedbed several weeks ahead of planting. Weed control is essential during establishment and utilizing a cultipacker with a pre-plant incorporated herbicide is recommended. Plant with slow-growing companion grasses in early spring or late summer.

Seeding Depth: ¼” – ½”

Germination

Use a cultipacker to firm soils both before and after planting to ensure both good seed-to-soil contact and improve moisture uptake. The best planting times are early spring, followed by late summer. In some areas, late summer may be a better choice due to reduced weed pressure at this time.

Min Time To Emergence: Variable

Ideal Temp: 50°F

Seeding Rate

Monoculture: 8 – 10 Lb/A

Establishment

Planting

Shallow plowing or thorough discing is needed to create a good, firm seedbed several weeks ahead of planting. Weed control is essential during establishment and utilizing a cultipacker with a pre-plant incorporated herbicide is recommended. Plant with slow-growing companion grasses in early spring or late summer.

Seeding Depth: ¼” – ½”

Germination

Use a cultipacker to firm soils both before and after planting to ensure both good seed-to-soil contact and improve moisture uptake. The best planting times are early spring, followed by late summer. In some areas, late summer may be a better choice due to reduced weed pressure at this time.

Min Time To Emergence: Variable

Ideal Temp: 50°F

Seeding Rate

Monoculture: 8 – 10 Lb/A

Establishment

Planting

Shallow plowing or thorough discing is needed to create a good, firm seedbed several weeks ahead of planting. Weed control is essential during establishment and utilizing a cultipacker with a pre-plant incorporated herbicide is recommended. Plant with slow-growing companion grasses in early spring or late summer.

Seeding Depth: ¼” – ½”

Germination

Use a cultipacker to firm soils both before and after planting to ensure both good seed-to-soil contact and improve moisture uptake. The best planting times are early spring, followed by late summer. In some areas, late summer may be a better choice due to reduced weed pressure at this time.

Min Time To Emergence: Variable

Ideal Temp: 50°F

Seeding Rate

Monoculture: 8 – 10 Lb/A

Management

Grazing

Leave birdsfoot trefoil ungrazed from early autumn until the first frosts to accumulate root reserves and provide good quality forage during late autumn. Rotationally graze often to encourage reseeding and spreading from passage through animals.

Earliest Time To Graze: Early Blooming Stage

Fertilizer Requirements

Apply any necessary fertilizers based on a soil test before seeding. If deficient, annual broadcast applications of 100lb/A phosphorus and 100lb/A – 200lb/A potash will improve stands. Birdsfoot trefoil utilized in greater than 30% of a mixture will provide enough N so that no additional fertilizer is necessary.

At Planting: 15 Lb/A N – 20 Lb/A N

During Grazing Season: Not Applicable

Hay or Silage?

Monoculture stands of birdsfoot trefoil produce high-quality forage. They are suitable for making hay, but they are prone to thinning out quicker than mixed stands. Do not cut in late summer or during the lead-up to the first frosts as root reserves may not be enough to initiate regrowth.

Timing: 10% Bloom

Cuttings During Season: 2 – 3

Recovery

Manage birdsfoot trefoil carefully to ensure the axillary and basal buds that trefoil regrows from are not grazed or cut. Light rotational grazing will ensure the longevity of the stand and allow birdsfoot trefoil to reseed itself. Heavy grazing may be needed in the spring to reduce growth and enable the trefoil to compete in a grass mixture better. Avoid continuous grazing as top-growth supplies energy, and trefoil does not maintain high levels of root reserves.

Minimum Graze Height: 4″

Rest Period: 6 weeks

Mixes

Mix trefoil with grasses to obtain higher yields, reduce lodging, and shorten the curing time for hay. When planting with Kentucky bluegrass, overseed 2 lb/ac in the early fall to allow the trefoil to get established before bluegrass becomes competitive. Bluegrass mixtures are especially beneficial since trefoil is most productive in the late spring and summer, followed by the bluegrass taking over in colder fall temperatures. Small grain companion crops assist in providing weed control and preventing erosion. Use shorter grains like oats or barley at a rate of 1 – 1.5 bu/ac.
Remove companion crops in the boot stage through grazing or machine harvesting, and avoid grazing if soils are wet. Scarification is of seed is recommended.

  • Timothy
  • Meadow Grass
  • Bromegrass
  • Cocksfoot
  • Perennial Ryegrass
  • Small Grains (cut or graze early to prevent shading)
  • Kentucky Bluegrass

Yields

Tons of Dry Matter/A: 6 – 17

Management

Grazing

Leave birdsfoot trefoil ungrazed from early autumn until the first frosts to accumulate root reserves and provide good quality forage during late autumn. Rotationally graze often to encourage reseeding and spreading from passage through animals.

Earliest Time To Graze: Early Blooming Stage

Fertilizer Requirements

Apply any necessary fertilizers based on a soil test before seeding. If deficient, annual broadcast applications of 100lb/A phosphorus and 100lb/A – 200lb/A potash will improve stands. Birdsfoot trefoil utilized in greater than 30% of a mixture will provide enough N so that no additional fertilizer is necessary.

At Planting: 15 Lb/A N – 20 Lb/A N

During Grazing Season: Not Applicable

Hay or Silage?

Monoculture stands of birdsfoot trefoil produce high-quality forage. They are suitable for making hay, but they are prone to thinning out quicker than mixed stands. Do not cut in late summer or during the lead-up to the first frosts as root reserves may not be enough to initiate regrowth.

Timing: 10% Bloom

Cuttings During Season: 2 – 3

Recovery

Manage birdsfoot trefoil carefully to ensure the axillary and basal buds that trefoil regrows from are not grazed or cut. Light rotational grazing will ensure the longevity of the stand and allow birdsfoot trefoil to reseed itself. Heavy grazing may be needed in the spring to reduce growth and enable the trefoil to compete in a grass mixture better. Avoid continuous grazing as top-growth supplies energy, and trefoil does not maintain high levels of root reserves.

Minimum Graze Height: 4″

Rest Period: 6 weeks

Mixes

Mix trefoil with grasses to obtain higher yields, reduce lodging, and shorten the curing time for hay. When planting with Kentucky bluegrass, overseed 2 lb/ac in the early fall to allow the trefoil to get established before bluegrass becomes competitive. Bluegrass mixtures are especially beneficial since trefoil is most productive in the late spring and summer, followed by the bluegrass taking over in colder fall temperatures. Small grain companion crops assist in providing weed control and preventing erosion. Use shorter grains like oats or barley at a rate of 1 – 1.5 bu/ac. Remove companion crops in the boot stage through grazing or machine harvesting, and avoid grazing if soils are wet. Scarification is of seed is recommended.

  • Timothy
  • Meadow Grass
  • Bromegrass
  • Cocksfoot
  • Perennial Ryegrass
  • Small Grains (cut or graze early to prevent shading)
  • Kentucky Bluegrass

Yields

Tons of Dry Matter/A: 6 – 17

Management

Grazing

Leave birdsfoot trefoil ungrazed from early autumn until the first frosts to accumulate root reserves and provide good quality forage during late autumn. Rotationally graze often to encourage reseeding and spreading from passage through animals.

Earliest Time To Graze: Early Blooming Stage

Fertilizer Requirements

Apply any necessary fertilizers based on a soil test before seeding. If deficient, annual broadcast applications of 100lb/A phosphorus and 100lb/A – 200lb/A potash will improve stands. Birdsfoot trefoil utilized in greater than 30% of a mixture will provide enough N so that no additional fertilizer is necessary.

At Planting: 15 Lb/A N – 20 Lb/A N

During Grazing Season: Not Applicable

Hay or Silage

Monoculture stands of birdsfoot trefoil produce high-quality forage. They are suitable for making hay, but they are prone to thinning out quicker than mixed stands. Do not cut in late summer or during the lead-up to the first frosts as root reserves may not be enough to initiate regrowth.

Timing: 10% Bloom

Cuttings During Season: 2 – 3

Recovery

Manage birdsfoot trefoil carefully to ensure the axillary and basal buds that trefoil regrows from are not grazed or cut. Light rotational grazing will ensure the longevity of the stand and allow birdsfoot trefoil to reseed itself. Heavy grazing may be needed in the spring to reduce growth and enable the trefoil to compete in a grass mixture better. Avoid continuous grazing as top-growth supplies energy, and trefoil does not maintain high levels of root reserves.

Minimum Graze Height: 4″

Rest Period: 6 weeks

Mixes

Mix trefoil with grasses to obtain higher yields, reduce lodging, and shorten the curing time for hay. When planting with Kentucky bluegrass, overseed 2 lb/ac in the early fall to allow the trefoil to get established before bluegrass becomes competitive. Bluegrass mixtures are especially beneficial since trefoil is most productive in the late spring and summer, followed by the bluegrass taking over in colder fall temperatures. Small grain companion crops assist in providing weed control and preventing erosion. Use shorter grains like oats or barley at a rate of 1 – 1.5 bu/ac.
Remove companion crops in the boot stage through grazing or machine harvesting, and avoid grazing if soils are wet. Scarification is of seed is recommended.

  • Timothy
  • Meadow Grass
  • Bromegrass
  • Cocksfoot
  • Perennial Ryegrass
  • Small Grains (cut or graze early to prevent shading)
  • Kentucky Bluegrass

Yields

 Tons of Dry Matter/A: 6 – 17

Considerations

Permanent Pasture

If appropriately managed, Birdsfoot trefoil will make excellent long-term pasture that can last for greater than ten years. Heavy grazing will be required to prevent shading out later emerging plants. If not managed for reseeding, stand life will be around two years.

Competitiveness

Slower establishing and lacking in seedling vigor, birdsfoot trefoil will need to have weeds under control before planting. Mow when weeds are 10″ – 15″ tall above the birdsfoot trefoil seedlings to control weed shading/competition. Earlier mowing isn’t practical, and later mowing will result in excessive weed competition. Use pre-plant herbicides on grassy weeds.

Risks

In similar well-drained, fertile soils, birdsfoot trefoil will not yield as well as alfalfa, around 50 – 80% of what alfalfa would do on the same grounds.

Diseases

  • Stemphylium
  • Rhizoctonia
  • Phomopsis
  • Uromyces
  • Curvularia
  • Diaporthe
  • Fusarium
  • Mycoleptodiscus
  • Pythium
  • Pyrenochaeta

Pests

  • Root-Lesion Nematodes
  • Potato Leafhopper
  • Plant Bugs
  • Spittlebug
  • Grasshoppers
  • Seed Chalcid

Considerations

Permanent Pasture

If appropriately managed, Birdsfoot trefoil will make excellent long-term pasture that can last for greater than ten years. Heavy grazing will be required to prevent shading out later emerging plants. If not managed for reseeding, stand life will be around two years.

Competitiveness

Slower establishing and lacking in seedling vigor, birdsfoot trefoil will need to have weeds under control before planting. Mow when weeds are 10″ – 15″ tall above the birdsfoot trefoil seedlings to control weed shading/competition. Earlier mowing isn’t practical, and later mowing will result in excessive weed competition. Use pre-plant herbicides on grassy weeds.

Risks

In similar well-drained, fertile soils, birdsfoot trefoil will not yield as well as alfalfa, around 50 – 80% of what alfalfa would do on the same grounds.

Diseases

  • Stemphylium
  • Rhizoctonia
  • Phomopsis
  • Uromyces
  • Curvularia
  • Diaporthe
  • Fusarium
  • Mycoleptodiscus
  • Pythium
  • Pyrenochaeta

Pests

  • Root-Lesion Nematodes
  • Potato Leafhopper
  • Plant Bugs
  • Spittlebug
  • Grasshoppers
  • Seed Chalcid

Considerations

Permanent Pasture

If appropriately managed, Birdsfoot trefoil will make excellent long-term pasture that can last for greater than ten years. Heavy grazing will be required to prevent shading out later emerging plants. If not managed for reseeding, stand life will be around two years.

Competitiveness

Slower establishing and lacking in seedling vigor, birdsfoot trefoil will need to have weeds under control before planting. Mow when weeds are 10″ – 15″ tall above the birdsfoot trefoil seedlings to control weed shading/competition. Earlier mowing isn’t practical, and later mowing will result in excessive weed competition. Use pre-plant herbicides on grassy weeds.

Risks

In similar well-drained, fertile soils, birdsfoot trefoil will not yield as well as alfalfa, around 50 – 80% of what alfalfa would do on the same grounds.

Diseases

  • Stemphylium
  • Rhizoctonia
  • Phomopsis
  • Uromyces
  • Curvularia
  • Diaporthe
  • Fusarium
  • Mycoleptodiscus
  • Pythium
  • Pyrenochaeta

Pests

  • Root-Lesion Nematodes
  • Potato Leafhopper
  • Plant Bugs
  • Spittlebug
  • Grasshoppers
  • Seed Chalcid

Please Note:

All information provided is the result of research, our own experience, or the experiences shared by our customers.

We strongly encourage consulting additional resources before planting to ensure the best fit for your location and needs.

Questions or Advice
Share Your Experience

Please Note:

All information provided is the result of research, our own experience, or the experiences shared by our customers.

We strongly encourage consulting additional resources before planting to ensure the best fit for your location and needs.

Questions or Advice
Share Your Experience

Please Note:

All information provided is the result of research, our own experience, or the experiences shared by our customers.

We strongly encourage consulting additional resources before planting to ensure the best fit for your location and needs.

Questions or Advice
Share Your Experience