The secret to reducing your corn nitrogen bill by 75 pounds an acre

Want to apply 75 fewer pounds per acre on corn ground next year, and possibly achieve a higher yield? Peter Johnson, agronomist for RealAgriculture, has the answer: apply red clover to the wheat crop now.

Wait, you say, you tricked me! This isn’t a secret at all.

And you’re right: frost seeding red clover in the early spring into a winter wheat crop is not new nor are the benefits a secret, but for some reason, it’s still a hard-sold practice for many Ontario farmers.

“The best cover crop fit, bar none, is red clover into winter wheat,” says Johnson. “There’s so much season left (after winter wheat). Red clover fixes a lot of nitrogen, offering a 75-pound per acre nitrogen credit to next corn crop, and a yield increase of eight to 10 bushels per acre. Every wheat acre should get red clover.”

So why don’t more farmers put red clover on in early spring? Well, consistency is an issue. “We don’t always get a good catch,” Johnson says. That said, as he explains in the quick audio segment below, where wheat struggles, like on knolls, is where red clover is needed most, and some clover is still better than none.

Are there any disadvantages to clover? Some do worry about the yield impact on the wheat crop, but Johnson says that’s a non-issue. The only real challenge is on a poor wheat crop where you use double-cut clover. Double-cut clover doesn’t need to vernalize, like single cut, so it CAN take off in a poor wheat crop and make for a large headache at harvest. 

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