Kura clover (Trifolium ambiguum) is a recently introduced high quality perennial legume. Its spreading, prostrate growth habit resembles that of white clover; however, kura clover spreads by rhizomes rather than stolons. Once established, kura clover has the ability to fill in bare spaces, thus causing the stand to thicken. Kura clover was investigated by the University of Kentucky Department of Plant and Soil Sciences for several years. Unfortunately, due to establishment difficulties, UK researchers have concluded that kura clover succeeds best farther north. The following information is provided for growers who would like to conduct their own on-farm trials.
Kura clover has shown promise as a high quality pasture forage for either continuous or rotational grazing in some parts of the country. Researchers in the Midwest have examined the use of kura clover as a living mulch in such cropping systems as no-till corn. It is also considered to be an excellent crop for honey production, erosion control, and soil improvement. Unfortunately, problems with establishment make kura clover a high risk crop for Kentucky.
Kura clover performs best on well-drained, fertile soil. It will not perform well on strip-mine sites. Its low seedling vigor makes establishment challenging; however, proper seed bed preparation and seeding techniques improve results. It is critical that seeds be inoculated with the rhizobial inoculant specific for this crop, as this species of rhizobia is not indigenous to Kentucky. Spring is the best time to seed kura clover, but later sowings can thrive when irrigated. The use of an herbicide may be necessary to prevent weed competition. Kura clover should not be sown with a companion crop, such as a small grain, and usually cannot be renovated into established grass stands. Vegetative establishment of kura clover can be successful provided sprigs are available, and that adequate rainfall or irrigation follows sprigging and sprigs are placed in good contact with the soil. Using sprigs that are obtained locally produces the best results.