By Kent Kammermeyer
Certified Wildlife Biologist/Consultant
Do you remember the nursery rhyme "Jack and the Beanstalk?" I haven't read the story in about 50 years, but the best I can do dredging up details from memory, it went like this. (Please remember that folks like me over 55 years old are known to suffer frequent serious memory loss).
Photo: Durana clover in March in Madison County, Ga. Note heavy grazing outside the cage.
Once upon a time, a young deer hunter named Jack traded his old bird dog for some magic clover seeds from Georgia. He carefully sowed the magic clover on a log landing on his deer lease called the Monster Rack Trophy Club. The next day he came back and low and behold one clover stalk had climbed its way up through the clouds making a perfect deer stand.
Jack got his 7mm Magnum (or was it a 30-06 or .270?) and climbed the stalk until he had a perfect view of the forest about 1,000 feet below him (he had a good scope). Pretty soon a buck appeared out of nowhere and began nibbling the lower leaves of the clover stalk. Jack waited a good 10 minutes for the clover to work its magic as the monster's rack to grow. Jack watched it breed 3 or 4 does to pass on his superior genetics. Then he carefully squeezed off his shot. The rest is history. Jack lived happily ever after and had his prized trophy mounted with a four-leaf clover (not a hemlock branch) sticking out the side of its mouth. He named the giant buck "Old Clover Horns."
A fairy tale? Sure! But, what is the real truth about some of these new clover varieties for deer and turkeys? The rest of this story gets serious and digs through the frills, truths and myths surrounding white clover varieties and their value to deer and deer hunters. From now on, as old LAPD Sergeant Joe Friday would say, "Just the facts, Ma'am, just the facts." Read on.
"Durana will last at least three times longer than common ladino white clovers on the market today," said Dr Karl Hoveland, retired senior researcher and renowned forage expert with the University of Georgia's Crop and Soil Science Department. "It's a real bargain except for those farmers and hunters that enjoy frequently re-planting their fields and food plots. We still don't know if it will ever die out."
Are you impressed yet? John Carpenter, national forage and wildlife products manager for Pennington Seed says, "Several Durana demonstration food plots, in fact, have had steady grazing from as many as 60 deer without any significant signs of stress." Try to do this with brassicas or red clover or Austrian winter peas. The Durana advantage based on The University of Georgia studies includes: tolerating heavier browsing pressure; delivering more persistence; growing in a lower soil pH; producing more stolon density (runners); thicker leaf growth; competing aggressively with grasses and weeds; producing more nitrogen for better grazing; and tolerating extreme drought conditions.
Photo: Dr. Bill Sell inspecting a Durana clover/wheat stand planted in September. This photo was taken in May.
There has long been a need for a persistent, long-lived clover that is highly competitive in a mixed stand with perennial grasses or other aggressive plants including weeds. Along comes Durana white clover, the product of Dr. Joe Bouton, renowned plant breeder formerly at the University of Georgia (currently with the Noble Foundation in Oklahoma). To improve grazing tolerance of white clover, he collected "native ecotypes" that had survived many years of hot, dry summers, heavy grazing and cattle trampling in several Georgia locations. Plants were subjected to heavy, continuous grazing with significant grass competition and productive survivors were crossed and a promising entry called GA43 (later named Durana) was increased for further development.
Durana is an intermediate white clover that has smaller, more abundant leaves than (large-leaved) taller ladino clovers but produces many more runners or stolons, which allow aggressive spreading, thicker leaf density and excellent grazing tolerance. Durana also flowers profusely for long periods making it a more dependable re-seeder if that seed bank is ever needed. For example, reseeding itself after an extreme summer drought severely injures top growth and stolons.
Parent material from Durana was also crossed with a hardy virus-resistant Mississippi ladino clover to create a variety named Patriot. In performance tests (university yield test) at UGA Experiment Stations, both compared very favorably with Regal ladino (an industry standard developed many years ago at Auburn University). Durana (3,200 pounds/acre dry weight forage yield) is not as productive as Regal ladino (4,200 pounds/acre) during the establishment year but catches up to it in year two with both producing close to 4,000 pounds/acre dry weight.
Both produced two to five tons of forage per year at 25-30 percent protein levels and up to 80 percent digestibility (indicating lack of cellulose which is not digestible). The difference is that Regal faded from perennial grasses in a few years (survival 17 percent) while Durana increased its original stand coverage (133 percent) and persisted for five years or more!
I have had experience with Durana for over 10 years now since first using it on Northeast Georgia Wildlife Management Areas on an experimental basis even before the seed was available commercially. The great majority of the Durana stands I have seen on both public and private lands persist for 3 to 7 years or more. I don't know about you but I vote for replanting my clover stands once every five to 10 years instead of every year or every other year! I prefer managing food plots with a mower rather than a plow.
This cool season perennial legume is adapted from east Texas across the south to the Atlantic Coast, north along a line from Macon, Ga., to Dallas, Texas and all the way to Canada. Below this line, it will do well in the right soils: sandy loam and heavy soils but not deep pure sands. It also tolerates shade up to 70 percent and wet soils including intermittent flooding.It is adapted to the Pacific Northwest and Rocky Mountain regions (where rainfall is adequate) as well as Upper Midwest and New England. I suspect it will thrive in Canada, but this is currently unknown.
Durana will grow in low pH (down to 5.4) but like all other clovers, will thrive in a pH of 6.0 or above. In lieu of a soil test, check with local agronomists or agricultural extension agents to determine general lime and fertilizer recommendations. Lime can be applied at planting but it is better to apply and incorporate six months before planting. Prepare a smooth, firm seedbed by disking the ground four to six inches deep, broadcasting 300 pounds/acre of 19-19-19 or equivalent (get a soil test to determine exact fertilizer requirements for your soil). Sow 50 pounds/acre of wheat (or oats or rye where appropriate), covering one inch deep, then firming with a cultipacker and broadcasting 5 pounds/acre Durana mixed with 5 pounds/acre red clover (Cinnamon Plus, Redland Max, Redland III, or Bulldog).
Cultipack or drag the mix again so that the clover seed has good soil contact and firm seedbed but is not more than one-fourth inch deep. Do not cover Durana or any other clover too deep with soil, trying to cover clover with disk harrows is a tricky proposition! Where Durana failures have occurred they can almost always be attributed to seed covered too deep or companion grasses planted way too heavily. In the North, August and April are best months but in the South, September and late February are ideal. For all spring plantings, always substitute oats for wheat because spring planted wheat will attempt to boot and go to seed at an early low growth stage.
Durana is always sold pre-inoculated with a coating of lime and selected Rhizobia (bacteria) strains for optimal nitrogen fixation. We have no-till drilled Durana into grasses killed by glyphosate with great success in both spring and fall. Cut clover seeding rates to 3 pounds/acre and small grains to 30 pounds/acre when using a drill.
As mentioned, Patriot white clover is a close relative of Durana with better first year production but possibly somewhat less persistence. One smart option would be to mix them together 50:50 for the best of both worlds, as Patriot will establish faster the first fall and as it begins to fade in subsequent years, Durana (or subsequent generation crosses) should gradually take over the stand.
For Durana management, unhook your plow and hook up your mower. Depending on weed coverage and competition, mow the Durana (down to three to four inches) one to three times each spring and summer beginning in June and ending in late August. Each mowing stimulates new growth and allows sunlight to reach the stolons which encourages both top growth and lateral growth as stolon density thickens. If weed competition or stand coverage is not a serious problem, once in late August is sufficient. Fertilize once per year in September with a no nitrogen fertilizer such as 0-20-30 or 0-20-20 at 300 pounds/acre. Some clover experts recommend an application of 100 pounds/acre Muriate of Potash (0-0-60) as soon as clover growth resumes in early spring.
University of Georgia (UGA) agronomists, after their seventh year of Durana field tests, were declaring unrivaled persistence in grazing trials where Durana is mixed with fungus-infected (toxic) fescue. UGA deer researchers recently completed a 1 1/2 year field test at six locations testing Durana production, palatibility and deer use. Graduate student Odin Stevens, under the direction of Dr. Karl Miller and Dr. Mike Mengak in cooperation with Georgia DNR Wildlife Resources Division and Pennington Seed now have the results.
Results indicate forage production and standing crops of Durana and Regal were similar throughout the study except during year two in the Coastal Plain and Piedmont when Durana surpassed Regal in production. In Georgia, availability (standing crop) of Durana was good all 12 months (after establishment) in the Piedmont and Coastal Plain but not in December and January in the mountains. High production of Durana occurred in March, April and May and again in September, October and November. Fall planted Durana will be slow to produce for two to three months as it spends time and energy establishing its strong root system. The researchers suggest that Durana may be superior to ladino in terms of long-term productivity. Combine this with superior persistence, and Durana quickly and easily becomes the clover of choice for hunters and deer managers.
Meanwhile, I have seen upwards of 100 different plots of Durana clover on public and private lands in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Piedmont, and Upper Coastal Plain of Georgia and South Carolina (including a one and one-half acre patch on my own property) and despite harsh and difficult conditions (drought, flooding, low fertility, overgrazing - even by hogs and cold) have encountered only a very few that I would consider a failure and most of these were planted too deep or overcome by noxious weeds. Most all of the others are vigorous and thriving and exceeding expectations. Some stands are going into their third or fourth year despite severe drought.
Retired UGA extension agronomist (and long time cattle farmer) Dr. Bill Sell who hired Joe Bouton years ago and was a close associate of Karl Hoveland for decades decided to test Durana at his Jackson County, Ga., farm to see for himself. He established plots of Durana and Patriot in the fall of 2002 without lime or fertilizer! His soil pH (tested twice) was 5.4. Both stands persisted under heavy deer grazing pressure (and again, no fertilizer) through the winter of 2005 when they began to fade from competition with winter forbs. He sprayed herbicide to kill everything and soon got back a pure vigorous stand of clover, again without fertilizer!
I would not recommend that you treat your Durana like this (low pH and no fertilizer), but it goes to show how tough the plant really is. I don't think his Durana would have faded in two and a half years had he limed and fertilized it.
Mark Buxton, former manager of Oakland Club Plantation in the Upper Coastal Plain of South Carolina reported on his deer management successes at the Fifth Annual Convention of the Quality Deer Management Association in Charleston, S.C. I watched and listened intently to his talk and recognized some of the Durana food plots that he had showed me during a spring field trip on his property. Basically, his deer antler development has rewritten the South Carolina record book for his part of the state. Durana is the cornerstone of his food plot program. In 2007, Mark grew it on every food plot acre he had (over 75 acres) except deep sands.
Why plant Durana? It is resistant to overgrazing, more persistent, more drought tolerant, more acid tolerant, more aggressive with competitive grasses and weeds, and has more stolon density (runners) and growing points than any other clover. That is one tough clover!
Both Durana and Patriot clovers are exclusively marketed by Pennington Seed Company of Madison, Ga. Call 1-800-285-SEED or check with your local Pennington seed dealer for availability.
Pennington Field Notes:
Patriot and Durana white clovers are key ingredients in Pennington Buckmasters Ultimate seed mixture for deer and turkeys.
Durana, unlike ladino clover, is an intermediate white clover. Intermediate clovers have a medium leaf size and a leaf density that is very thick, from the ground to the top of the plant. This leaf density will help prevent weed invasion. Durana possesses a high stolon density; it has 97 stolons per square foot, unlike conventional ladino clovers which only have 52 per square foot.
By Kent Kammermeyer
Certified Wildlife Biologist/Consultant
By now everyone in the deer and turkey worlds has heard of Durana clover and many of them have already planted it. This new Pennington clover is a productive powerhouse clover that is highly competitive in a mixed stand with perennial grasses, weeds or other aggressive plants when managed properly.
Photo: A food plot planted with Patriot White Clover.
Patriot white clover is a lesser known but another powerful product of Dr. Joe Bouton, renowned plant breeder formerly at the University of Georgia (currently heading the Noble Foundation in Oklahoma). To improve grazing tolerance and persistence of white clover, he collected native ecotypes (dug from pastures where clover had not been planted for many years) that had survived hot dry summers in several Georgia locations.
Plants were subjected to heavy, continuous grazing with grass competition, productive survivors were crossed and a promising entry called GA43 (later named Durana) was increased for further development.
Parent material from Durana was then crossed with a Mississippi virus-resistant intermediate-type (medium-sized leaf) hybrid ladino clover to form a new variety named Patriot. According to Dr. Bouton, it is a persistent, high-yielding, densely spreading, profuse-flowering cultivar. Patriot also differs from Durana in having taller plants, larger leaflets, longer petioles (flower stalk), later heading date, fewer stolon growing points (large horizontal running root) and lower cyanic acid. (Some plants evolve to produce low levels of cyanic acid to "defend themselves" against insects).
Patriot differs from Regal ladino clover (an industry standard developed at Auburn University) by having more stolon growing points, shorter plant height, smaller leaflets, shorter petioles, earlier heading date, more seed heads and higher cyanic acid. Patriot's high yield is more like its ladino-type parent but its persistence is far superior and more similar to Durana.
Pennington Agronomist Chris Agee thinks Patriot's more upright growth can make it more competitive in ungrazed deer plots (such as during abundant acorn crops in fall or plots that deer leave for weeks during mid-spring greenup in the forest). He also thinks that better cold tolerance and faster seedling growth in year one can sometimes make it a better deer forage choice than Durana when planted in the far North or in a clover/cereal grain mix where competition can be intense in the first year. Both are excellent re-seeders producing a lot of hard seed that will germinate when conditions are right.
My friend Tommy Hunter has planted both seeds in separate deer plots in Madison County, Ga., and currently prefers Patriot because it grows faster and sprouts earlier. He has a 3-year old plot that made it through a tough drought last summer and it is still going strong. Larry Gilbert plants both in his deer plots on his Hancock County property but they were always mixed together making it difficult to evaluate first year growth differences.
He did notice a distinct ability of Patriot to thrive in very shady conditions even as low as three or four hours of sunlight. Both guys have planted Regal and Osceola in past years but have now totally switched to Patriot/Durana because of their persistence under tough conditions.
In performance tests at UGA experiment stations, reported by Dr. John Andrae (currently at Clemson University), both Patriot and Durana compared very favorably with Regal ladino. Patriot produced over 3,800 pounds/acre in the first year and 4,200 pounds/acre in the second year versus 4,200 pounds/acre and 4,000 pounds/acre respectively, for Regal.
Both can produce two to five tons of forage per year at 18-30 percent protein levels and 65 to 85 percent digestibility (indicating a distinct lack of cellulose which is not digestible). The difference is that Regal fades from perennial grasses or weed competition in a couple of years while Patriot can persist much longer!
In further UGA tests, Dr. Carl Hoveland (retired UGA agronomist) reported ground coverage after two years under heavy grazing pressure was 6 percent for Regal and 75 percent for Patriot. This is quite an advantage for the weekend deer manager who is on a budget and replants clover stands once every four or five years instead of every two years! I prefer managing food plots with a mower rather than a plow.
This cool season perennial legume is adapted from east Texas across the south to the Atlantic Coast and north along a line from Macon, Ga., to Dallas, Texas. Below this line, it will do well on sandy loam or heavy soils. It is adapted to the Pacific Northwest including California, inter-mountain regions (in river valleys and irrigated fields) as well as the Upper Midwest and New England. I suspect it will survive the cold winters in Canada, but this is currently unknown.
Patriot will grow in low pH (down to 5.4) but like all other clovers, will thrive and grow vigorously in a pH of 6.0 on up to 7.2. Get a soil test to determine accurate lime and fertilizer recommendations. Lime can be applied at planting but it is better to apply and incorporate lime six months before planting.
Prepare a smooth seedbed (disked four to six inches deep) and broadcast 5 pounds/acre Patriot mixed with 5 pounds/acre red clover (Cinnamon Plus, Redlan-Graze II, Redland III, Bulldog) plus 30 pounds/acre of wheat and 30 pounds/acre winter-hardy oats where appropriate. Follow soil test recommendations or in lieu of tests, apply 300 pounds/acre of 19-19-19 or equivalent. Broadcast grain seed and fertilizer, cultipack or drag, then broadcast clover seed and cultipack again so that clover seed has good soil contact and firm seedbed but is not more than one-fourth inch deep. In the north, August and April are the best months to plant Patriot. You can even frost seed it in March and let the freezing and thawing action create the good soil contact needed for germination when soil temperatures rise.
In the south, September-October and late February-early March are ideal. For all spring plantings, always substitute oats for wheat.
Patriot is always sold pre-inoculated with a coating of lime and selected Rhizobia (bacteria) strains (code B) for optimal nitrogen fixation. We have no-till drilled both Patriot and Durana into grasses killed by glyphosate with great success in both spring and fall. Cut clover seeding rates to 3 pounds/acre and small grains to no more than 30 pounds/acre total when using a drill.
For Patriot management, unhook your plow and hook up your mower. Depending on weed coverage, mow the Patriot down to three to four inches, one to three times each summer. If weed competition is not a bad problem, once in late August is sufficient. Fertilize once per year in September with a no nitrogen fertilizer such as 0-20-30 or 0-20-20 at 300 to 400 pounds/acre. For maximum production, apply 100 pounds/acre Muriate of Potash (0-0-60) just as growth resumes in early spring.
For grassy weed problems in perennial clovers, spray Poast Plus grass selective herbicide where grasses like ryegrass, fescue, crabgrass or bermuda grass are competing with your perennial clover. Use 2 1/2 pints/acre Poast Plus mixed with 2 pints/acre Crop Oil Concentrate and apply in spring when grasses are less than 6-8 inches tall. Repeat in late summer if needed by mowing in August, waiting two weeks, then spraying.
Meanwhile, I have planted and observed many different plots of Patriot and Durana clover on public and private lands (including a one and one-half acre patch on my own property) and despite harsh and difficult conditions (drought, aggressive weeds, overgrazing and cold) have encountered only a small handful that I would consider a failure.
Most all of the others are vigorous and thriving and exceeding expectations. Some are going into their fourth or fifth year. Why plant Patriot? It is faster starting, grazing resistant, persistent, drought tolerant, acid tolerant, wet tolerant, shade tolerant, is more aggressive with grasses and weeds and has more stolon density than virtually any other clover.
As mentioned, Patriot white clover is a "daughter" of Durana with better early production but possibly somewhat less persistence. One smart option would be to mix them 50:50 for the best of both characteristics. Both are exclusively marketed by Pennington Seed Company of Madison, Ga., (1-800-285-SEED). For a Cadillac mix that contains both Patriot and Durana as well as Austrian winter pea, crimson clover, wheat, oats and more, get Pennington Rackmaster Elite, a brand new mix developed for both deer attraction and nutrition. Ask your local Pennington seed dealer about it.
Pennington Field Notes:
Patriot and Durana white clovers are key ingredients in Pennington Buckmasters Ultimate seed mixture for deer and turkeys.
Pinwheel says deer love Red Clover flowers, I am planting Red Clover next year on Pinwheels's advice. Deer hardly touch white clover on my place. I hunted over a white clover food plot, and the deer moved quickly through it, hardy browsing it.
I have a plot of Durana Clover that was broadcast 9-06 Soil did not have any Lime nor Fertilizer applied. Area was plowed & disked several times. It is some old bottom ground. Seems to be holding up fine by mowing 3 times a year. I'm thinking about 8 inches is what I cut it back to for weed control. This area is always wet so maybe the 2 to 3 inches back would be better?
Also have a plot of Imperial Whitetail Clover that was broadcast 9-04. It was Limed & Fertilizer applied. Also it was sprayed once. After that, mowing is the only maintenance it has had. Deer like both of them.