Forage:Birdsfoot trefoil is used as a high quality, non-bloating legume for pastures, hay and stock-piling.
Erosion control:Birdsfoot trefoil is often used for mine reclamation and other sites with marginal soils.
Wildlife: Birdsfoot trefoil is used in wildlife mixes and is an excellent food source for deer.
Lotus corniculatus L., birdsfoot trefoil is a short-lived,
non-bloating perennial legume which has the ability to reseed itself
under proper management. Stems are smaller in diameter and less rigid
than alfalfa stems and can grow to a height of 12 to 30 inches depending
on whether it is a prostrate or erect variety. Flowers are bright
yellow (4 to 8 perstem) with each flower producing one seed pod. Seed
pods radiate from the flower stalk, resembling a birds foot. Leaves are
compound with five oval leaflets. Birdsfoot trefoil has a well
developed tap root with numerous lateral branches in the upper 15 inches
of soil. There are approximately 370,000seeds per pound.
Adaptation and Distribution
Birdsfoot trefoil is found from the south central United States to
southern Canada. It is most productive in fertile, well drained soils
with a close to neutral pH. However, birdsfoot trefoil can be grown on
low pH (5.5) soils with low fertility and will tolerate short periods of
flooding better than alfalfa. It can tolerate periods of drought and is
more suited to soils prone to heaving. Alfalfa will out produce
birdsfoot trefoil by 50 to 80 percent on well drained, fertile soils
limiting birdsfoot trefoil to areas where alfalfa is difficult to
Birdsfoot trefoil should be inoculated before planting to ensure
sufficient nodulation of the root system for nitrogen fixation. A
smooth, firm seedbed is recommended. Seeding depth should not be more
than 1/4 inch. The seeding rate is 8 to 10 pounds per acre for pure
stands and 2 to 8 pounds per acre in mixes, depending on the cool season
grasses utilized. Early spring seeding is generally more successful
than late summer seeding.
When harvested for hay, the first cutting should be taken at 1/10
bloom with a second cutting in mid to late August. To maintain a stand
of birdsfoot trefoil, it is necessary to use a management system that
provides sufficient regrowth between cuttings and allows the plant to
reseed itself. Heavy grazing may be needed in the spring to reduce
growth butclose, continuous grazing is not recommended because summer
regrowth depends on energy supplied by top growth not root reserves like
alfalfa. Leave 3 to 4 inches of top growth when grazing. Avoid haying
or grazing between September 1st and the first killing frost to allow
root reserves to accumulate for better winter survival and spring
growth.Birdsfoot trefoil is well suited for stockpiling since it
maintains its leaves at maturity and after frosts. Birdsfoot trefoil
responds to proper fertility management which should be determined by
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