38 I EUROPEAN SEED I EUROPEAN-SEED.COM W ho knew that the cute clover, so easily found in mead- ows around the world, can have up to 56 leaflets! At least, this is the current official record of highest number of clover leaflets on a stem, established in 2009. So much for four-leaved clover... Clover, in fact, is the common name for all plants of the genus Trifolium which consists of about 300 species of plants. Several of them are extensively cultivated as fodder crops, either sown alone or in a mixture with ryegrass. The crop has for a long time formed a staple crop for silaging, because of its versatility. It grows vigorously, shooting up again after repeated mowings; it produces an abundant crop; it is palatable and nutri- tious for livestock; it fixes nitrogen, reducing the need for syn- thetic fertilizers; it grows in a great range of soils and climates; and it is appropriate for either pasturage or green composting. Agronomically, the most important species are red clover (T. pratense), white clover (T. repens); Crimson clover (T. incarnatum); Egyptian clover (T. alexandrinum); clover hybrids and subterranean clover (T. subterraneum). Clover can be found all over the world, with the highest diversity in the temperate Northern Hemisphere, but many spe- cies also exist in South America and Africa, including at high altitudes on mountains in the tropics. They are small annual, biennial, or short-lived perennial herbaceous plants, and can even be evergreen. All the more reason for European Seed to check with some clover breeding companies how much luck is needed to develop a new clover variety. We spoke with Dr David Lloyd, Head of Legume Breeding at IBERS (whose commercial partner is Germinal); Lily Chin, clover breeder at Barenbrug New Zealand; Niels Roulund clover breeder at DLF in Denmark; and Libor Jaluvka, clover breeder at DLF in the Czech Republic. EUROPEAN SEED (ES): WHICH CLOVER SPECIES IS YOUR COMPANY MOSTLY FOCUSSING ON, AND FOR WHICH REASON? NIELS ROULUND (NR): DLF Seeds is mostly focussing on breeding of white clover (T. repens) and diploid red clover (T. pratense), because these two species have the biggest market potential, fit best to mix with DLF grasses and have the best potential for seed production. LILY CHIN (LC): Clovers are important forage legumes. Grown mainly in a mixture with grass, plantain or chicory, they can contribute significantly to productive pastures, higher animal performance, nitrogen fixation, and improved soil structure. However, until recently some dairy farms do not grow enough clover because the increased use of N fertiliser over the past few decades (in the pursuit of higher milk production) has reduced its performance. With tightening of environmental regulations on N fertiliser levels used on farms, the significance of clovers in pastures has been renewed. We mostly focus on breeding white (T. repens) and red clovers (T. pratense). White clovers can annually contribute up to 7t dry matter (DM) per hectare and red clovers up to 15 t DM/ha, particularly on farms with inputs of less than 200kg N/ha/year. Our clover breeding program is partly based in New Zealand, where there is also significant clover usage and seed production. Clover lines are sent to multiple locations in Europe for trialling to ensure the clover produced performs under the different soil, climate and farm systems (e.g. dairy farms under mainly cut and carry systems to sheep grazing in the UK). Red clovers have a greater market in Europe than in NZ, due to the NO NEED FOR LUCK! BREEDING CLOVER IS ALL SCIENCE, ART AND A LOT OF HARD WORK. BY: MARCEL BRUINS White clover. (Image courtesy of Barenbrug.)