Clover As A Fertilizer





It would probably be correct to say that no

plant has yet been introduced into American agriculture that has been

found so generally useful as clover in fertilizing land and in improving

the mechanical condition. Some who have investigated claim that there is

more nitrogen in a clover sod after the removal of a good crop of clover

than will suffice for four average farm crops, more phosphoric acid than

will suffice for two, and more potash than will suffice for six. It

begins to draw nitrogen from the air as soon as the tubercles commence

to form and continues to add thus to the enrichment of the land during

all the succeeding period of active growth. As previously stated, the

nitrogen is drawn in great part from the air; consequently, soil from

which a bountiful crop of clover has been removed will be considerably

richer in nitrogen than before it grew the same, and this will hold true

as intimated above, even though the crop should be removed and sold.

Under the same conditions it will also be true in available phosphoric

acid and potash. But the latter are gathered from the soil and subsoil

while the plants were growing. Consequently, if crops of clover are

grown in short rotation periods and if no fertilizer is given to the

land other than the clover brings to it, while it will be abundantly

supplied with nitrogen, a time will come when the supply of phosphoric

acid and potash may be so reduced that the soil will not grow even good

crops of clover. When this point is reached the soil is spoken of as

clover sick. Happily, however, nearly all soils are so well stored

with phosphoric acid and potash that this result is not likely to follow

for many years. But lest it should, attention should be given to

fertilizing the land occasionally with farmyard manure, or with

phosphoric acid and potash applied as commercial fertilizers. Because of

this, and also for other reasons, it is usually considered more

profitable in the end to feed clover on the farm and return it to the

land in the form of manure. But clover may cease to grow on land where

once it grew well, because of other reasons, such as changes in the

mechanical condition of the soil caused by the depletion of its humus

and changes in its chemical condition, such as increased acidity. The

remedy is the removal of the cause.



The roots also put large quantities of humus in the soil. Where crops

are regularly grown in short rotations they will suffice to keep it

amply supplied for ordinary production. Because of this it is usually

considered more profitable to cut both the crops which medium red clover

produces in one season, or to pasture off one or both, than to plow

under either as green manure. But when soils are too stiff or too open

in character it may be advantageous to bury clover to restore the

equilibrium. It may also be necessary to bury an occasional crop in

order to put the land quickly in a condition to produce some desired

crop, the growth of which calls for large supplies of humus. When clover

is plowed under it will usually be found more profitable to bury the

second growth of the season than the first. The crop is in the best

condition for being plowed under when the plants are coming into bloom.

If left until the stems lose their succulence the slow decay following

in conjunction with the bulkiness of the mass plowed under might prove

harmful to the crop following the clover. The influence of the roots

upon the mechanical condition of the soil is most beneficial. The roots

go down deep into the subsoil and also abound in fibrous growth. The tap

roots in their decay furnish openings through which the superfluous

water may go down into the subsoil. The fibers adhering to the main

roots so ramify through the soil that when even stiff land is filled

with them it is rendered friable, and is consequently brought into a

good mechanical condition.



While all varieties of clover may be utilized in producing food and in

enriching land, none is equal to the medium red for the two purposes

combined. This arises from the fact that none save the medium red grows

two crops in one season under ordinary conditions. Though the first crop

should be taken for food, as it generally is, there is still ample time

for a second crop to grow for plowing under the same season. This second

growth is ready for being plowed under when time is less valuable than

it would be when the mammoth or alsike varieties would be in season for

being thus covered. And yet the work may be done sufficiently early to

admit of sowing fall or winter crops on the land which produced the

clover.





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