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Patriot White Clover (Trifolium repens)

By Kent Kammermeyer
Certified Wildlife Biologist/Consultant

By now everyone in the deer and turkey worlds has heard of Durana clover and many of them have already planted it. This new Pennington clover is a productive powerhouse clover that is highly competitive in a mixed stand with perennial grasses, weeds or other aggressive plants when managed properly.

PhotoPhoto: A food plot planted with Patriot White Clover.

Patriot white clover is a lesser known but another powerful product of Dr. Joe Bouton, renowned plant breeder formerly at the University of Georgia (currently heading the Noble Foundation in Oklahoma). To improve grazing tolerance and persistence of white clover, he collected native ecotypes (dug from pastures where clover had not been planted for many years) that had survived hot dry summers in several Georgia locations.

Plants were subjected to heavy, continuous grazing with grass competition, productive survivors were crossed and a promising entry called GA43 (later named Durana) was increased for further development.

Parent material from Durana was then crossed with a Mississippi virus-resistant intermediate-type (medium-sized leaf) hybrid ladino clover to form a new variety named Patriot. According to Dr. Bouton, it is a persistent, high-yielding, densely spreading, profuse-flowering cultivar. Patriot also differs from Durana in having taller plants, larger leaflets, longer petioles (flower stalk), later heading date, fewer stolon growing points (large horizontal running root) and lower cyanic acid. (Some plants evolve to produce low levels of cyanic acid to "defend themselves" against insects).

Patriot differs from Regal ladino clover (an industry standard developed at Auburn University) by having more stolon growing points, shorter plant height, smaller leaflets, shorter petioles, earlier heading date, more seed heads and higher cyanic acid. Patriot's high yield is more like its ladino-type parent but its persistence is far superior and more similar to Durana.

Pennington Agronomist Chris Agee thinks Patriot's more upright growth can make it more competitive in ungrazed deer plots (such as during abundant acorn crops in fall or plots that deer leave for weeks during mid-spring greenup in the forest). He also thinks that better cold tolerance and faster seedling growth in year one can sometimes make it a better deer forage choice than Durana when planted in the far North or in a clover/cereal grain mix where competition can be intense in the first year. Both are excellent re-seeders producing a lot of hard seed that will germinate when conditions are right.

My friend Tommy Hunter has planted both seeds in separate deer plots in Madison County, Ga., and currently prefers Patriot because it grows faster and sprouts earlier. He has a 3-year old plot that made it through a tough drought last summer and it is still going strong. Larry Gilbert plants both in his deer plots on his Hancock County property but they were always mixed together making it difficult to evaluate first year growth differences.

He did notice a distinct ability of Patriot to thrive in very shady conditions even as low as three or four hours of sunlight. Both guys have planted Regal and Osceola in past years but have now totally switched to Patriot/Durana because of their persistence under tough conditions.

In performance tests at UGA experiment stations, reported by Dr. John Andrae (currently at Clemson University), both Patriot and Durana compared very favorably with Regal ladino. Patriot produced over 3,800 pounds/acre in the first year and 4,200 pounds/acre in the second year versus 4,200 pounds/acre and 4,000 pounds/acre respectively, for Regal.

Both can produce two to five tons of forage per year at 18-30 percent protein levels and 65 to 85 percent digestibility (indicating a distinct lack of cellulose which is not digestible). The difference is that Regal fades from perennial grasses or weed competition in a couple of years while Patriot can persist much longer!

In further UGA tests, Dr. Carl Hoveland (retired UGA agronomist) reported ground coverage after two years under heavy grazing pressure was 6 percent for Regal and 75 percent for Patriot. This is quite an advantage for the weekend deer manager who is on a budget and replants clover stands once every four or five years instead of every two years! I prefer managing food plots with a mower rather than a plow.

Adaptation/Establishment
This cool season perennial legume is adapted from east Texas across the south to the Atlantic Coast and north along a line from Macon, Ga., to Dallas, Texas. Below this line, it will do well on sandy loam or heavy soils. It is adapted to the Pacific Northwest including California, inter-mountain regions (in river valleys and irrigated fields) as well as the Upper Midwest and New England. I suspect it will survive the cold winters in Canada, but this is currently unknown.

Patriot will grow in low pH (down to 5.4) but like all other clovers, will thrive and grow vigorously in a pH of 6.0 on up to 7.2. Get a soil test to determine accurate lime and fertilizer recommendations. Lime can be applied at planting but it is better to apply and incorporate lime six months before planting.

Prepare a smooth seedbed (disked four to six inches deep) and broadcast 5 pounds/acre Patriot mixed with 5 pounds/acre red clover (Cinnamon Plus, Redlan-Graze II, Redland III, Bulldog) plus 30 pounds/acre of wheat and 30 pounds/acre winter-hardy oats where appropriate. Follow soil test recommendations or in lieu of tests, apply 300 pounds/acre of 19-19-19 or equivalent. Broadcast grain seed and fertilizer, cultipack or drag, then broadcast clover seed and cultipack again so that clover seed has good soil contact and firm seedbed but is not more than one-fourth inch deep.  In the north, August and April are the best months to plant Patriot. You can even frost seed it in March and let the freezing and thawing action create the good soil contact needed for germination when soil temperatures rise.

In the south, September-October and late February-early March are ideal. For all spring plantings, always substitute oats for wheat.

Patriot is always sold pre-inoculated with a coating of lime and selected Rhizobia (bacteria) strains (code B) for optimal nitrogen fixation. We have no-till drilled both Patriot and Durana into grasses killed by glyphosate with great success in both spring and fall. Cut clover seeding rates to 3 pounds/acre and small grains to no more than 30 pounds/acre total when using a drill.

For Patriot management, unhook your plow and hook up your mower. Depending on weed coverage, mow the Patriot down to three to four inches, one to three times each summer. If weed competition is not a bad problem, once in late August is sufficient. Fertilize once per year in September with a no nitrogen fertilizer such as 0-20-30 or 0-20-20 at 300 to 400 pounds/acre. For maximum production, apply 100 pounds/acre Muriate of Potash (0-0-60) just as growth resumes in early spring.

For grassy weed problems in perennial clovers, spray Poast Plus grass selective herbicide where grasses like ryegrass, fescue, crabgrass or bermuda grass are competing with your perennial clover. Use 2 1/2 pints/acre Poast Plus mixed with 2 pints/acre Crop Oil Concentrate and apply in spring when grasses are less than 6-8 inches tall. Repeat in late summer if needed by mowing in August, waiting two weeks, then spraying.

Meanwhile, I have planted and observed many different plots of Patriot and Durana clover on public and private lands (including a one and one-half acre patch on my own property) and despite harsh and difficult conditions (drought, aggressive weeds, overgrazing and cold) have encountered only a small handful that I would consider a failure.

Most all of the others are vigorous and thriving and exceeding expectations. Some are going into their fourth or fifth year. Why plant Patriot? It is faster starting, grazing resistant, persistent, drought tolerant, acid tolerant, wet tolerant, shade tolerant, is more aggressive with grasses and weeds and has more stolon density than virtually any other clover.

As mentioned, Patriot white clover is a "daughter" of Durana with better early production but possibly somewhat less persistence. One smart option would be to mix them 50:50 for the best of both characteristics. Both are exclusively marketed by Pennington Seed Company of Madison, Ga., (1-800-285-SEED). For a Cadillac mix that contains both Patriot and Durana as well as Austrian winter pea, crimson clover, wheat, oats and more, get Pennington Rackmaster Elite, a brand new mix developed for both deer attraction and nutrition. Ask your local Pennington seed dealer about it.

Pennington Field Notes:
Patriot and Durana white clovers are key ingredients in Pennington Buckmasters Ultimate seed mixture for deer and turkeys.

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