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Environmental Benefits of clover

White Clover

How does white clover save on chemical N?

White clover fixes nitrogen (N). N fixation is the process whereby white clover can fix N from the atmosphere and make it available for plant growth, thereby reducing the requirement for chemical fertiliser N.

How white clover works to reduce emissions?

Incorporating white clover into grassland reduces the demand for chemical N. Therefore, if there is less chemical N fertiliser spread, there is less nitrous oxide being emitted into the air. Using white clover achieves a reduction in nitrous oxide emissions by lowering the chemical N fertiliser use (by up to 100kg N/ha on dairy farms).

Impact at farm level

On dairy farms, research has shown that using white clover can increase milk solids production by 20-48kg/cow/year and increase net farm profit by €108-305/ha. Profitability also increased by 14% for the grass-white clover system, when compared to a ‘conventional’ system.

Impact on the environment

Using white clover can reduce nitrous oxide emissions by up to 40% due to reduced chemical N fertiliser application. Clover will help to reduce the carbon footprint of the farm and more importantly, reduce total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from the farm.

Teagasc Signpost Factsheet - White Clover

Red Clover

Red clover swards under multi-cut silage have low environmental footprints compared with alternatives. Greenhouse gas and ammonia emissions are low due to zero input of N fertilizer. Although red clover can fix huge amounts of N (equivalent to 300 kg/ha) this N is almost entirely taken up by the crop, is carried to the silage pit and ultimately ends up in the slurry tank. Recycling of this slurry back to the red clover swards using low emissions application techniques results in low nitrate losses to water.