Securing Seed

As a rule, seed is not produced from the first cutting

for the season of medium red clover. It is claimed that this is due to

lack of pollenization in the blossoms, and because they are in advance

of the active period of working in bumble bees, the medium through which

fertilization is chiefly effected. This would seem to be a sufficient

explanation as to why medium red clover plants will frequently bear seed

the first year, if allowed to, though the first cutting from older

plants will have little or no seed. But it is claimed that the ordinary

honey bee may be and is the medium for fertilizing alsike and small

white clover, but not that through which the mammoth variety is


Experience has shown, further, that, as a rule, better crops of clover

seed may be obtained from clover that has been pastured off than from

that which has been mown for hay, although to this rule there are some

exceptions. This arises, in part, from the fact that the energies of the

plant have been less drawn upon in producing growth, and, therefore, can

produce superior seed heads and seed, and in part from the further fact

that there is usually more moisture in the soil at the season when the

plants which have been pastured off are growing. There would seem to be

some relation between the growing of good crops of clover seed and

pasturing the same with sheep. It has been claimed that so great is the

increase of seed in some instances from pasturing with sheep till about

June 1st, say, in the latitude of Ohio, that the farmer who has no sheep

could afford to give the grazing to one who has, because of the extra

return in seed resulting. The best crops of seed are obtained when the

growth is what may be termed medium or normal. Summers, therefore, that

are unusually wet or dry are not favorable to the production of clover


If weeds are growing amid the clover plants that are likely to mature

seed, they should, where practicable, be removed. The Canada thistle,

ragweed, plantain and burdock are among the weeds that may thus ripen

seeds in medium clover. When not too numerous they can be cut with the

spud. When too numerous to be thus cut, where practicable, they should

be kept from seeding with the aid of the scythe. To prevent them from

maturing is important, as the seeds of certain weeds cannot be

separated from those of clover with the fanning mill, they are so alike

in size.

The crop is ready for being cut when the heads have all turned brown,

except a few of the smaller and later ones. It may be cut by the mower

as ordinarily used, by the mower, with a board or zinc platform

attachment to the cutter bar, by the self-rake reaper, or by the grain

binder. The objection to the first method is that the seed has to be

raked and that the raking results in the loss of much seed; to the

second, that it calls for an additional man to rake off the clover; and

to the third, that the binder is heavier than the self-rake reaper. The

latter lays the clover off in loose sheaves. These may be made large or

small, as desired, and if care is taken to lay them off in rows, the

lifting of the crop is rendered much easier.

When the clover is cut with the mower, it should be raked into winrows

while it is a little damp, as, for instance, in the evening. If raked in

the heat of the day many of the heads will break off and will thus be

lost. From the winrows it is lifted with large forks. When the crop is

laid off in sheaves it may be necessary to turn them once, even in the

absence of rain, but frequently this is not necessary. In the turning

process gentle handling is important, lest much of the seed should be

lost. The seed heads of a mature crop break off very easily in the hours

of bright sunshine. Rather than turn the sheaves over, it may be better,

in many instances, just to lift them with a fork with many tines, and

set them down easily again on ground which is not damp under them, like

unto that from which they have been removed.

Clover seed may be stored in the barn or stack, or it may be threshed

directly in the field or from the same. The labor involved in handling

the crop is less when it is threshed at once than by any other method,

but frequently at such a busy season it is not easily possible to secure

the labor required for this work. It is usually ready for being threshed

in two or three days after the crop has been cut, but when the weather

is fair it may remain in the field for as many weeks after being

harvested without any serious damage to the seed. If, however, the

straw, or haulm, as it is more commonly called, is to be fed to live

stock, the more quickly that the threshing is done after harvesting, the

more valuable will the haulm be for such a use.

When stored in the barn or stack, it is common to defer threshing until

the advent of frosty weather, for the reason, first, that the seed is

then more easily separated from the chaff which encases it; and second,

that farm work is not then so pressing. When threshed in or directly

from the field, bright weather ought to be chosen for doing the work,

otherwise more or less of the seed will remain in the chaff.

In lifting the crop for threshing or for storage, much care should be

exercised, as the heads break off easily. The fork used in lifting it,

whether with iron or with wooden prongs, should have these long and so

numerous that in lifting the tines would go under rather than down

through the bunch to be lifted. The wagon rack should also be covered

with canvas, if all the seed is to be saved. If stored in stacks much

care should be used in making these, as the seed crop in the stack is

even more easily injured by rain than the hay crop. The covering of old

hay of some kind that will shed rain easily should be most carefully put


Years ago the idea prevailed that clover seed could not be successfully

threshed until the straw had, in a sense, rotted in the field by lying

exposed in the same for several weeks. The introduction of improved

machinery has dispelled this idea. The seed is more commonly threshed by

a machine made purposely for threshing clover called a clover huller.

The cylinder teeth used in it are much closer than in the ordinary grain

separator. The sieves are also different, and the work is less rapidly

done than if done by the former. During recent years, however, the seed

is successfully threshed with an ordinary grain threshing machine, and

the work of threshing is thus more expeditiously done. Certain

attachments are necessary, but it is claimed that not more than an hour

is necessary to put these in place, or to prepare the machine again for

threshing grain.

Since the seed is not deemed sufficiently clean for market as it comes

from the machine, it should be carefully winnowed by running it through

a fanning mill with the requisite equipment of sieves. It is important

that this work should be carefully done if the seed is to grade as No. 1

in the market. If it does not, the price will be discounted in

proportion as it falls below the standard. A certain proportion of the

seed thus separated will be small and light. This, if sold at all, must

be sold at a discount. If mixed with weed seeds it should be ground and

fed to some kind of stock.

The haulm, when the seed crop has been well saved, has some feeding

value, especially for cattle. If not well saved it is only fit for

litter, but even when thus used its fertilizing value is about

two-thirds that of clover hay. More or less seed remains in the chaff,

and because of this the latter is sometimes drawn and strewn over

pastures, or in certain by places where clover plants are wanted. Seed

sown in the chaff has much power to grow, owing, it is thought, to the

ability of the hull enclosing the seed to hold moisture. The yields in

the seed crops of medium red clover vary all the way from 1 to 8 bushels

per acre. The average yields under certain conditions are from 3 to 4

bushels per acre. Under conditions less favorable, from 2 to 3 bushels.

Within the past two decades the seed crop has been seriously injured by

an insect commonly spoken of as the clover midge (Cecidomyia

leguminicola) which preys upon the heads so that they fail to produce.

A field thus affected will not come properly into bloom. The remedy

consists in so grazing or cutting the clover that the bloom will come at

that season of the summer when the insects do not work upon the heads.

This season can only be determined by actual test. In Northern areas it

can usually be accomplished by pushing the period of bloom usual for the

second crop two to four weeks forward.

Seasons For Sowing Securing Seed facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail