Evaluating the Potential to Breed Kura Clover for a Southeastern U.S. Adapted Living Mulch System

Project Overview

Project Type: Graduate Student
Funds awarded in 2023: $16,363.00
Projected End Date: 08/31/2025
Grant Recipient: Auburn University
Region: Southern
State: Alabama
Graduate Student:
Major Professor:
Dr. Marnin Wolfe
Auburn University


  • Agronomic: clovers


  • Crop Production: plant breeding and genetics
  • Pest Management: mulches - living

    Proposal abstract:

    Living mulch systems are an emerging technology for sustainable agricultural intensification involving a continuous ground-covering crop into which cash crops like corn are planted seasonally. Living mulches have a demonstrated potential to make cropping systems more sustainable by reducing nitrogen fertilizer requirements and weed management costs, increasing water infiltration and conserving water and nutrients for the main crop. Legume living mulches, like one using perennial Kura clover are of strongest interest as they provide nitrogen fixation. Despite their potential, suitable Kura clover and living mulch systems for row-crop production in the southeastern US are yet to be developed. To be successful as a living mulch, Kura clover’s speed of establishment and the timing and architecture of growth needs to be enhanced. In this project, we propose to adapt Kura clover for a southeastern living mulch system using a breeding and genetics approach. We are partnering with a Kura clover breeding program at The Land Institute (TLI) and have sourced diverse Kura germplasm from both TLI and the USDA National Plant Germplasm System (NPGS) to initiate breeding evaluations in Alabama. We will study the inheritance of important morphological, phenological, agronomic and physiological traits to design an efficient selection strategy for Kura improvement. Field trials characterizing diverse existing germplasm will provide data for initial parental selection and population improvement that will ultimately produce new and improved Kura varieties with Southeastern and living mulch system adaptation. 

    Project objectives from proposal:

    Obj 1: Evaluate the performance of diverse Kura clover germplasm set in a multi-year trial.

    Obj 1.1 Identify the best performing genotypes for key morphological, agronomic and physiological traits in this diverse germplasm set. 

    Obj 1.2 Assess the genetic correlation structure among evaluated Kura clover traits to understand their inter-relationships. 

    Obj 1.3 Assess the heritability and genetic complexity of Kura traits linked to performance.


    Obj 2: Develop Near Infrared Spectroscopy equations for rapid analysis of Kura clover forage quality traits.


    Obj 3: Study the genetic diversity of Kura Clover and the prospect to use genomics to accelerate breeding.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.