On certain soils low in fertility and much deficient in
humus, it may be necessary to apply fertilizers in some form before
clovers will grow vigorously. Such are sandy soils that have been much
worn by cropping, and also stiff clays in which
the humus has become practically exhausted. In such instances green crops that can be grown on such lands, as rye, for instance, plowed under when the ear begins to shoot, will be found helpful. If this can be followed on the sandy soil with some crop to be fed off upon the land, as corn, for instance, and the clover is sown, successful growth is likely to follow. On clays in the condition named it may not be necessary to grow a second crop before sowing clover, since in these soils the lack is more one of humus than of plant food. The application of farmyard manure will answer the same purpose, if it can be spared for such a use. Other soils are so acid that clovers will not grow on them until the acidity is corrected, notwithstanding that plant food may be present in sufficient quantities. Such are soils, in some instances at least, that have been newly drained, also soils that grow such plants as sorrels. This condition will be improved if not entirely corrected by the application of lime. On such soils this is most cheaply applied in the air-slaked form, such as is used in plastering and in quantities to effect the end sought. These will vary, and can only be ascertained positively by experiment. Usually it is not necessary to apply much farmyard manure in order to induce growth in nearly all varieties of clover, and after free growth is obtained, it is not usually necessary to supply any subsequently for the specific purpose named. In some soils, however, alfalfa is an exception. It may be necessary to enrich these with a liberal dressing of farmyard manure to insure a sufficiently strong growth in the plants when they are young. Having passed the first winter, further dressings are not absolutely essential, though they may prove helpful. Farmyard manure applied on the surface will always stimulate the growth of clovers, but it is not common to apply manure thus, as the need for it is greater in growing the other crops of the farm. When thus applied, it should be in a form somewhat reduced, otherwise the coarse parts may rake up in the hay. It is better applied in the autumn or early winter than in the spring, as then more of the plant food in it has reached the roots of the clover plants, and they have also received benefit from the protection which it has furnished them in winter. In a great majority of instances, soils are sufficiently well supplied with the more essential elements of fertility to grow reasonably good crops of clover, hence it has not usually been found necessary to apply commercial fertilizers to stimulate growth, as in the growing of grasses. In some instances, however, these are not sufficiently available, especially is this true of potash. Gypsum or land plaster has been often used to correct this condition, and frequently with excellent results. It also aids in fixing volatile and escaping carbonates of ammonia, and conveys them to the roots of the clover plants. It is applied in the ground form by sowing it over the land, and more commonly just when the clover is beginning to grow. The application of 50 to 200 pounds per acre has in many instances greatly increased the growth, whether as pasture, hay or seed. The following indications almost certainly point to the need of dressings of land plaster: 1. When the plants assume a bluish-green tint, rather than a pea-green, while they are growing. 2. When the plants fail to yield as they once did. 3. When young plants die after they have begun to grow in the presence of sufficient moisture. 4. When good crops can only be grown at long intervals, as, say, 5 to 8 years. It has also been noticed that on some soils where gypsum has long been used in growing clover the response to applications of the plaster is a waning one, due doubtless to the too rapid depletion of the potash in the soil. Potassic fertilizers give the best results when applied to clovers, but dressings of phosphoric acid may also be helpful. Applications of muriate or sulphate of potash or kainit may prove profitable, but on many soils they are not necessary in growing clover. Wood ashes are also excellent. They furnish potash finely divided and soluble, especially when applied in the unleached form. When applied unleached at the rate of 50 bushels per acre and leached at the rate of 200 bushels, the results are usually very marked in stimulating growth in clover.
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