|DURANA WHITE CLOVER (Trifolium repens)
By: Kent Kammermeyer
There has long been a need for a persistent productive, long-lived clover that is highly competitive in a mixed stand with perennial grasses or other aggressive plants. Along comes Durana white clover, the product of Dr. Joe Bouton, renowned plant breeder formerly at the University of Georgia (he currently heads the Noble Foundation in Oklahoma). To improve grazing tolerance of white clover, he collected native ecotypes that had survived hot dry summers in several Georgia locations. Plants were subjected to heavy, continuous grazing with grass competition and productive survivors were crossed and a promising entry called GA43 (later named Durana) was increased for further development. Durana has smaller leaves than ladino clovers but produces many more runners or stolons, which allow aggressive spreading and excellent grazing tolerance. Durana flowers profusely for long periods making it a more dependable re-seeder. Parent material from Durana was also crossed with a virus-resistant ladino clover to form a variety named Patriot. In performance tests, both compared very favorably with Regal ladino (an industry standard). Durana is not as productive as Regal ladino during the establishment year but catches up to it in year two. Both produce two to five tons of forage per year at 25-30% protein levels and up to 80% digestibility (indicating lack of cellulose which is not digestible). The difference is that Regal fades from perennial grasses in a couple of years while Durana persists for five years or more! I don’t know about you but I vote for replanting my clover stands once every five 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 and north along a line from Macon, GA to Dallas, TX. Below this line, it will do well on sandy loam or heavy soils. It is adapted to the Pacific Northwest 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 to determine 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 seedbed (disked four to six inches deep) and broadcast five-lbs/acre Durana mixed with five-lbs/acre red clover (Cinnamon Plus, Redlan-Graze II, Redland III, Bulldog) and 50 lbs/acre of wheat (or oats or rye where appropriate). Apply 300 lbs/acre of 19-19-19 or equivalent (get a soil test to tailor your fertilizer application for your soil). Cultipack or drag the mix 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 best months but in the South, September and late February are ideal. For all spring plantings, always substitute oats for wheat. Durana is always sold pre-inoculated with a coating of lime and selected Rhizobia (bacteria) strains for optimal nitrogen fixation. We have drilled Durana into grasses killed by glyphosate with great success in both spring and fall. Cut clovers to three-lbs/acre and small grains to 30-lbs/acre when using a drill.
As mentioned, Patriot white clover is a close relative of Durana with better production but probably somewhat less persistence. One smart option would be to mix them 50:50 for the best of both worlds. Both are exclusively marketed by Pennington Seed Company of Madison, GA (1-800-285-SEED).
For Durana management, unhook your plow and hook up your mower. Depending on weed coverage, mow the Durana (down to four to five 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 lbs/acre. University of Georgia (UGA) agronomists are in their seventh year of Durana field tests, declaring unrivaled persistence. UGA deer researchers just completed a one and one-half year field test at six locations testing production and deer use. Results of this research will be available within a year. Meanwhile, I have seen over 25 different plots of Durana clover on public and private lands (including a one an one-half acre patch on my own property) and despite harsh and difficult conditions (drought, overgrazing and cold) have encountered only one that I would consider a failure. Most all of the others are vigorous and thriving and exceeding expectations. Some are going into their third year. Why plant Durana? It is grazing resistant, more persistent, more drought tolerant, more acid tolerant, more aggressive with grasses and weeds, has more stolon density than any other clover. My agronomist friend, Dr. Bill Sell, has a Durana stand that is three years old and thriving in a soil pH of 5.4 and no fertilizer. That is one tough clover!