Incorporating red clover and seaweed biostimulant to improve forage quality and soil health

With the production and environmental benefits of diverse swards growing, the case for mixing clover, in particular red clover with grass seed is becoming increasingly compelling. The high protein content of red clover is one of its greatest attributes for producing high-quality silage. Red clover silage has a protein content of 16-20% compared to 12-14% from good quality conventional grass silage. Higher protein and energy values are all part of the attraction to growing red clover for silage and grazing. More of the protein is also readily available for uptake by the livestock due to the enzyme polyphenol oxidase (PPO) in red clover slowing its breakdown in the rumen. In addition, it’s also considered beneficial for its nitrogen-fixing ability, reducing the requirement for applied nitrogen. It also leaves residual nitrogen behind for the following crop.

The use of seaweed-based bioproducts has also been gaining momentum in crop production systems owing to their unique bioactive components and effects. They have phytostimulatory properties that result in increased plant growth and yield parameters in several important crop plants. Over the decades, seaweed extracts have been highly explored for possible use in crop production for improving biomass yield and produce quality. These extracts have been shown to positively affect seed germination and plant growth at all stages up to harvest and even post-harvest. However, research to prove these statements is still very limited. 

In this trial we will aim to combine both elements by looking at the effect of incorporating a seaweed-based bioproduct onto a red clover ley to understand the effect on establishment, growth and quality of the crop. The aim is to compare growth of crop with and without the bioproduct with the ultimate aim of improving silage quality and expand on the aims on the first project to eliminate concentrate feeding to reduce costs without impacting animal performance.

Through driving further improvement in efficiency in these key business areas, the project will also contribute to the Sustainable Land Management outcomes including: 

  • contribute to high herd health and welfare 
  • reducing the farms greenhouse gas emissions
  • improve resource efficiency by making the most of home-grown forage on farm
  • mitigate flood & drought risk by incorporating deeper rooting leys