Determining Adaptation of Mono- and Binary Mixtures of Improved Red and Ladino Clovers and Perennial Grasses, Including Perennial Ryegrasses, in the Great Lakes Region

Project Overview

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2002: $94,344.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2005
Matching Non-Federal Funds: $96,000.00
Region: North Central
State: Michigan
Project Coordinator:
Dr. Richard Leep
Richard Leep Consulting

Annual Reports


  • Agronomic: grass (misc. perennial), hay
  • Animals: bovine
  • Animal Products: dairy


  • Animal Production: feed/forage
  • Education and Training: demonstration, extension, farmer to farmer, networking, on-farm/ranch research, participatory research
  • Farm Business Management: agricultural finance
  • Pest Management: competition
  • Production Systems: agroecosystems
  • Soil Management: nutrient mineralization


    This project focused on the evaluation of kura, ladino, red clovers, perennial ryegrass, orchardgrass, tall fescue, and festulolium in mono and binary mixtures using rotational grazing at five locations in Michigan. Yield of cool season grasses grown with kura clover, red clover, or white clover was 4.0 tons/acre. The yield of grasses without clovers with 200-lbs/acre nitrogen was 3.5 tons/acre. The yield of clovers was 3.2 tons/acre. These data show the clear advantage of growing grasses and legumes together. Varieties of diploid and tetraploid perennial ryegrass including “barfort” and “mara” showed excellent winterhardiness while “aries” and “quartet” showed significant winter injury. In 2004-2005, there was a shift of the highest yield of binary mixes or orchardgrass to tall fescue indicating good persistence of this species. The most palatable combinations and the highest dry matter yield of binary mixtures at Lake City were duo festulolium with red clover, calibra perennial ryegrass and red clover, Tekapo orchardgrass with red clover, and barolex tall fescue with red clover. The highest dry matter yields at Kellogg Biological station were hycor tall fescue and jumbo white clover, Spartan orchardgrass and red clover, barolex tall fescue and red clover, and maverick gold perennial ryegrass and starfire red clover. The highest dry matter yields in the Upper Peninsula were hycor tall fescue and jumbo white clover, Spartan orchardgrass and jumbo white clover, barfort perennial ryegrass and alice white clover, and barolex tall fescue and start red clover. Red clover has always been considered a biennial, but after 3 years only 7 of the top 10 yielding mixtures contain red clover. Kura clover performed better at KBS than LC (3.45 v. 1.78 tons/a).


    There has been increased interest in clovers, improved perennial grasses and ryegrasses expressed by both farmers and public officials including NRCS and University Extension in recent years. Ryegrasses and ladino clovers have been used extensively in Europe and other parts of the world with great success and are known for their excellent forage quality. Because of the excellent forage quality of these species, dairy farms practicing rotational grazing could stand to benefit from their use in grazing systems. However, there is little or no research in most areas of the Midwest on adaptation of ryegrasses and ladino clovers to make sound recommendations. In addition, there is little information on performance of improved cool-season perennial grasses grown in binary mixtures of improved varieties of red and ladino clovers with perennial grasses in the Great Lakes region. All research being conducted evaluating grass and legume varieties in this region only evaluate monocultures rather than binary mixtures that farmers typically use in their pastures. This project will obtain information on management of these crops in the region, thus, providing farmers with sustainable options for pasture crops to graze where they are found to be adapted.

    Project objectives:

    1. Evaluate pure stands of improved red clover, ladino clover, and perennial grasses including ryegrasses (diploids and tetraploids).

      Evaluate binary mixtures of the above red and ladino clovers with new perennial grasses including ryegrasses (diploids and tetraploids).

      Evaluate the pure stands and binary mixtures by grazing and mechanically harvesting.

      Subject the experiments to extreme different climatic environments by locating three experiments with at least two differences of degrees latitude with distinct climatic differences to determine species response to rainfall, temperature and snowfall.

    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.