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several methods for treating permanent pastures depends upon the successful
growth of natural white clover, it would be well to consider some of the important
factors which influence its growth.

Moisture. — Without question, moisture is the most important factor in-
fluencing the prevalence of natural white clover in permanent pasture sods.
"Indeed, it depends so much upon a general distribution of rains through the
season," wrote Flint in 1867, "that when they are sufficiently abundant it comes
in profusely even where it was not observed in other years, and hence such seasons
pass under the term of 'clover years.' "^^^ An adequate supply of moisture is so
important for this very aggressive but shallow-rooted plant that any permanent
pasture-improvement program which depends largely on the growth of natural
white clover for its success, should be confined only to those pasture areas which
have satisfactory moisture relationships throughout most of a normal season.

Mineral Nutrients. — An adequate supply of mineral nutrients is just as im-
portant as soil moisture in maintaining a vigorous growth of white clover. At
the present time most permanent pasture soils in Massachusetts which have not
been limed and fertilized are too deficient in a number of the necessary plant food
elements, particularly calcium and potash, to support a good growth of white
clover. If adequate quantities of these elements are supplied through top-
dressed lime and fertilizers to soils with good moisture relationships, an abundant
growth of natural white clover will invariably result.

Competition from Associated Grasses. — A third important factor influencing
the prevalence of natural white clover is the vigorous growth of the accompanying
grasses. 1*2 This competition frequently exists in pastures which have been im-
properly grazed or which have been heavily fertilized with nitrogen fertilizers
and then improperly grazed. If grass is not subdued in pastures of moderately
low levels of fertility, the white clover will seriously suff'er because under such
conditions only the low-growing forms will thrive and such forms offer poor com-
petition for tall-growing grasses.

Competition from grasses is always serious following periods of drought. The
effects of dry weather are always much more severe on the clover than on the
grass. The succulent leaves and stems of the clover usually dry up completely
and the plant dies, whereas the grasses usually remain dormant throughout the
dry period and then begin growth again as soon as growing conditions are again
favorable. These grasses, stimulated by the nitrogen released from the dead
clover plants, then make very rapid growth which in turn makes survival difficult
for any clover plant which may have escaped the drought. It is now generally
believed that the effects of nitrogen fertilizers on clovers are indirect. The nitrogen
stimulates the grasses and the grasses in turn, unless closely grazed, tend to crowd
out the clovers.

"Hard" Seeds. — The "spontaneous" appearance of natural white clover
wherever and whenever soil conditions are favorable, is probably explained by
the abundant production of "hard" seeds. Early observations have shown that
some of these "hard" seeds will germinate after remaining many years in vials

l*lGras3 and Forage Plants, pp. 188.189.

132b. a. Brown, Journal American Society of Agronomy, XXXI (1939), 326-332.


filled with water.133 That such seeds can live for a long time submerged in water.,
gives some indication as to how long they might lie dormant in the soil before
germinating. More recent experimental work tends to support these earlier
observations. 13* What evidently happens is that a great many seeds are lying
dormant in the soil and that a few of them germinate every year. If fertility
conditions are favorable these few plants make an extremely rapid, spreading
growth. One single plant under favorable circumstances may spread out in a
radius of from two to three feet in one season's growth. The limiting factor to
growth may be the lack of one or more of the fertilizer elements, or it may be
lack of moisture; but if these factors are eliminated, this remarkable "spon-
taneous" growth of natural white clover invariably results. The seeds of natural
white clover appear to have been universally distributed over the whole of New
England and the sudden appearance of this species can occur almost anywhere.

Top-dressing with Lime and Fertilizer. — The use of only lime and super-
phosphate has been reasonably successful in sections where silt loam and clay
loam soils are found and also on lands recently cleared of timber where the soils
have a high content of organic matter. Since neither extensive areas of silt loam
and clay loam soils nor lands recently cleared of timber are found in Massachu-
setts, this type of treatment for permanent pastures has met with only limited
success here. Some of the heavier soils in Franklin and Berkshire counties do
give a moderate response to treatments with lime and superphosphate, but most
of the lighter soils both in these two counties and elsewhere in the State do not.

The application of potash in addition to lime and superphosphate has produced
moderately good results on a much greater variety of soil types than has just
lime and superphosphate. This is to be expected since it has already been shown
that the potassium deficiency in many Massachusetts soils is more acute than
phosphorus deficiency. The response of all clovers to application of potash in
Massachusetts has long been observed. ^^^

If moisture relationships are such that a complete mineral treatment cannot
be relied upon to induce a good growth of natural white clover, nitrogen must
be added to the top-dressing mixture. Grasses must have plenty of nitrogen
to produce a satisfactory growth, and if a legume cannot be relied upon some
other source must be provided. Permanent pasture grasses are more widely
distributed than natural white clover in Massachusetts, with the result that
there is a considerable area of land which will respond to a complete fertilizer.
It is by no means uncommon in badly depleted pastures for a complete fertilizer
to actually stimulate the growth of natural white clover. Quite often nitrogen
alone is applied on permanent pasture in the early spring to provide early spring
grazing. Although this provides an economical source of early spring feed, nitro-
gen alone without additional use of lime and mineral fertilizers will merely hasten
the depletion of essential soil minerals and thereby hasten pasture deterioration.

Detailed recommendations for the kinds and amounts of lime and fertilizer
materials to use, together with a description of how and where they may be ap-
plied, are available in several current publications. i^^

Fertility Improvement and Maintenance in Semi- Permanent Pastures

The fertility problem in semi-permanent pastures is handled much the same
as for any tilled crop. The land is plowed, then adequately fertilized using suit-
able fertilizer materials including barnyard manure if available, and finally worked

ISSMass. State Bd. Agric. 54th Annual Report (1906), p. 150.

134international Seed Testing Association Proceedings, X (1938), 93-122.

135wm. P. Brooks, Hatch Expt. Sta. (Mass. Agric. College). 6th .Annual Report (1894), p. 9.

136Mass. State College Extension Leaflet 150 (1940).


up into a satisfactory seedbed and seeded. On many areas used for pastures
of this kind, it is difficult to use the ordinary plow because of rocks and stones.
A tillage implement known as a "bog" harrow is sometimes used under these
circumstances with quite satisfactory results. Any tool which will break up and
pulverize the top five or six inches of soil can be employed; although for the best
decomposition and utilization of the old sod it should be completely turned under.
The use of annual top-dressings of mineral fertilizers on pastures of this type
is recommended in order to maintain high levels of productivity. Moderate
applications of fertilizers at seeding time, followed by annual applications, usually
result in a more efficient use of these materials than if large applications are made
at seeding time only. As is the case with permanent pastures more detailed in-
formation is contained in current publications. ^^^

The Grazing System

"Manure right, sow right and manage the grazing animal wrong and >ou are
nowhere," writes Stapledon'^* in emphasizing the importance of grazing manage-
ment. It is only within the last few years, with the extensive growing of Ladino
clover pastures, that the importance of grazing management has begun to be
understood and appreciated in Massachusetts.

With old run-down permanent pastures the yield depends more upon the
weather and on fertilizer practices than on the grazing system employed. It
has always been difficult to demonstrate any marked improvement or benefit
from a rotational over a continuous system of grazing on permanent pastures.
Grazing management becomes important only as the potential productive capa-
city of a pasture increases. The productive capacity of most of our permanent
pastures is too low for them to show much benefit from rotational grazing. In
other words, the greater the productive capacity of a pasture, the greater the
need for controlled grazing.


The need for exercising some control in the management of grasslands has
long been recognized in Massachusetts. Almost two hundred years ago Jared
Eliot wrote: "It will be best to take out the Sheep at the latter end of August
that so what English Grass there is, may make coat for the ground before Win-
ter . . . "1^9 The principles of rotational grazing were also early understood
and the adoption of rotational systems of grazing advocated. Jn. Turner in 1761
wrote concerning early colonial grazing practices:

Another Error, I mention, is, that in Pasture Ground we leave open
too large a Piece to feed upon, in Proportion to the Number of creatures
to feed; as it is frequently the case, for one Cow to range on five or six
Acres of good Land at once, whereas by Division Fences in two Acre Lots,
the same Tract would maintain three Cows; . . . There is another ad-
vantage I have experienced in Division Fences, that in a wet Year I have
saved several Lots for Mowing which my Creatures did not want the
Feed of; and, had my Pastures lain in common, they would have been
trampled down and useless. ^^^

Other references^*! to the use of rotational or "on and off" systems of grazing
appear from time to time, but at no time until recently was the system adopted

l^Mass. Stat? College Extension Leaflets 175 (1937); 144 (1939).

ISSpourth International Grassland Congress, Great Britain, Report (Aberystwyth, 1937). p. 1.

IS^Field Husbandry, p. 19.

'^^ibid., p. 155.

^'''Doolittle, Address to the Hampshire, Franklin and Hampden County Agricultural Society,

(Northampton, 1826), p. 11; Mass. -Agricultural Societies Transactions (1853). p. 9; Mass.

State Bd. Agric. 20th Annual Report (1872), Pt. I, p. 38.


to any great extent. In the early da\s when pasture land was plentiful and
grazing was good, farmers saw little need for expending additional time and
money to rotate the grazing of these pastures. Later, when these pastures were
"run out," it made comparatively little difference whether grazing was rotated
or not. Controlled grazing practices are at present much more important in the
management of good semi-permanent pastures than in most permanent pastures.

The Principles of Grazing Management

About the only semi-permanent pasture species whose grazing management
has been studied in Massachusetts is Ladino clover. Although the requirements
of other species may vary, it is likely that many of the best management prac-
tices for Ladino clover will apply to many of the other legumes at least. Some
of the most important elements of grazing technique include the following:

Alternate Grazing. — Ladino clover will not withstand continuous, close grazing.
Vigorously growing Ladino clover produces large leaves borne on long upright-
growing stems. If these leaves are continually removed, the plant cannot main-
tain a large enough leaf surface to carry on its normal life functions. Its growth
becomes less vigorous and before long it is crowded out altogether by some less
productive, less desirable species. Continuous grazing probably results also in
much mechanical injury to the heavy, succulent runners which spread over the
ground, and in this manner reduces plant growth. Therefore, Ladino clover
pastures must be rested periodically to allow the plants to recover from the effects
of grazing. A grazing period of one week to ten days appears to be the best for
Ladino clover. This permits the removal of most of the vegetative growth which
was present at the beginning of the grazing period, but not of much of the new
growth which occurs during that period.

Keeping animals on the pasture only a few hours a day during the grazing
period is another desirable practice, for it reduces mechanical injury to the plants
and compaction of the soil through tramping. This latter factor is particularly
important in the spring and during wet weather.

Even Grazing. — Unless a good pasture is uniformly grazed it deteriorates
rapidly. The undergrazed areas quickly become less palatable and are therefore
shunned more than ever, while the overgrazed areas become more palatable in
contrast and are therefore still more heavily overgrazed. Heavy stocking over a
relatively short grazing period is the best way to prevent the development of this
condition. A good Ladino clover pasture usually requires from eight to twelve
cows per acre to graze it evenly in a grazing period of one week to ten days.
Occasionally the use of a mower after grazing may be necessary to remove un-
eaten clumps.

Late Fall and Early Spring Grazing.— Grazing good pastures late in the fall
frequently prevents the storage of adequate food reserves in the roots of plants
like Ladino clover and often results in severe winter injury. Grazing early in
the spring before good growth has started or while the ground is soft is also fre-
quently injurious. Pasture plants must be permitted to make their early spring
growth unmolested, to enable them to maintain high productivity levels later
in the season.

The Pasture Plant

The third principal factor which directh- influences the productivity, feeding
value, and general usefulness of a pasture is the kind and type of plants which
thrive there.

Not only the total productivity of a pasture but also its seasonal productivity,


the ability to supply herbage during the hot summer as well as during the spring
and autumn, is closely associated with the nature of the plant cover. This phase
of the pasture problem, like that of grazing management, is relatively new and
it is one in which rapid progress is now being made. Therefore, it is not possible
at this time to present a full or conclusive discussion.

Permanent Pasture Species

The pasture plants most commonly found in permanent pastures are Kentucky
bluegrass and white clover in the best pastures; variable percentages of blue-
grasses, bent grasses, fescues, and native white clovers, together with a variety
of weed species, in the poorer ones. Although the species composition of most
poor permanent pastures can be definitely improved by following suitable fertiliz-
ing practices, the best that can be hoped for without plowing and reseeding is a
good stand of Kentucky bluegrass and native white clover. These two plants,
although a good source of grazing during the spring and fall, are invariably a poor
source during midsummer. The clover is particularly susceptible to injury from
drought, while bluegrass grows very slowly during hot weather. The result has
been that permanent pastures reach high levels of production in spring and
autumn and fall to very low levels during midsummer.

Semi- Permanent Pasture Species

Because of the serious limitations inherent in the common permanent pasture
species, a number of other grasses and legumes have recently been used in pasture
seedings. In practically all cases with these plants, however, it is necessary to
plow and fertilize before seeding; and in most cases, even though the plants are
perennial in nature, a good stand will not last for more than three to five years.
Consequently the period of maximum usefulness of such pastures is limited and
they are called semi-permanent pastures.

Several of these newer legumes and grasses, have proved to be definitely superior
to bluegrass and native white clover. If soil fertility relationships are favorable
and the grazing is controlled, total yields of herbage are much larger and, what is
more important, seasonal fluctuations in yield are smaller. Production is main-
tained at fairly high levels even during the hot summer months when good graz-
ing is usually quite scarce.

Of the newer pasture legumes tried in Massachusetts, Ladino clover has been
used with the greatest success over a fairly wide range of soil conditions. In other
sections of the country alfalfa is showing some promise as a pasture plant, but
because of the nature of the soils the extensive use of alfalfa in Massachusetts as
compared to Ladino clover is unlikely, especially as alfalfa lacks some of the quali-
ties of a good grazing plant. Many of our soils are shallow with sandy or gravelly
subsoils and as such are not well suited to a deep-rooted, strong-feeding crop like
alfalfa, while with other soils the water table is too high for satisfactory growth.
Ladino clover, which compares favorably with alfalfa in yielding ability, is a
surface feeder with large numbers of small roots which develop principally in the
plow layer of soil. It is a comparatively simple matter to maintain adequate
supplies of mineral nutrients in the plow layer through adequate fertilizer prac-
tices, but it is difficult to make up mineral deficiencies in the subsoil layers.

The newer grasses have been given only limited trials in ]Massachusetts and
most of these have been experimental. Of the species thus far tested, brome grass,
meadow fescue, orchard grass, and certain types of rye grass appear to show the
most promise. With most of these species, particularly with orchard grass, many
different strains have been developed, some of which are much more suitable for
pasture purposes than others. Many of these different strains are now under-
going careful test, seeded alone and in mixtures, and it is likely that plant breeders
will produce still better strains as time goes on. Indications are that some superior


pasture strains of the above-named species will soon be available for general use.
However, a word of caution needs to be sounded regarding the use of these new
and improved strains of both grasses and legumes. Important though they may
be, they are no substitute for soil fertility and, to a considerable extent, will
accentuate rather than reduce the need for controlled grazing. This is a condition
which plant breeders and farmers alike should not overlook.

Pasture Seeding Mixture

Little can be said concerning the matter of seed mixtures until many of the
newer pasture strains have been given wider testing. A few conclusions, however,
do appear justified. It is generally conceded that a suitable combination of
grasses and legumes appears to be desirable from the standpoint of maintaining
not only high levels of production but also high feeding values. A number of
species which have regularly been included in pasture mixtures since mixtures
were first used in Massachusetts, are likely to be eliminated in the future. For
example, it seems unnecessary to include the seed of Kentucky bluegrass and
white clover in a pasture seeding mixture when these species will come in volun-
tarily and dominate the vegetation in a few years whether they are seeded or not.
Red top is another grass which will probably be used less extensively. The
growth habits of this grass appear to be incompatible with those of some of our
better pasture species. It does not grow well with Ladino clover and when
associated with alfalfa, excessive lodging frequently results. To include red top
with a seeding of either Ladino clover or alfalfa appears to be unwise.

The whole question of pasture seeding mixtures is one which is now being
carefully studied and investigated and it is probable that still more important
changes will be made.

The Climate

Weather is perhaps the most important factor affecting the productivity and
usefulness of a pasture but since nothing can be done to control it directly, it
has been considered last. Temperature and rainfall are closely associated not
only with seasonal production of pastures, but with total production as well.
In wet seasons, herbage yields rise to high levels and in dry seasons they fall to
low levels. There are several ways, however, of indirectly ameliorating the
unfavorable influence of the weather.

One important means is the maintenance of high soil fertility levels. Fertile
soils in good tilth with a dense, rich vegetative cover are much less affected by
adverse weather conditions than are depleted soils with hard, baked surfaces
which will support only a scanty plant cover. "It is a rule that admits of no
dispute," wrote J. E. Russell almost sixty years ago, "that well-manured lands
best withstand drouth. "1^2

A second means is the use of desirable pasture plants which are heat and drought
tolerant, are cold resistant, and are productive even though seasonal weather
conditions are somewhat unfavorable. In 1853 J. C. Gray wrote "As no human
power can change our climate, and as there seems no prospect of any amelioration
of its severe winters or its parching droughts, it is an obvious dictate of common
sense, to select such plants for cultivation, whether annual or perennial, as can
best resist its fierce extremes." i*^

If, after careful attention has been given to the soil and plant factors, further
consideration is given to a well-conceived farm management program, the prob-

^^^Mass. State Bd. Agric. 30th Annual Report (1882), p. 10.
l^^ibid., 1st Annual Report (1853), Pt. I. p. 162.


lem of weather can be largely solved. This management program may call for a
large semi-permanent pasture acreage which would supply most of the normal
grazing requirements. Any excess could be used for the production of hay or
grass silage. It might involve the normal cutting of the first crop for hay or silage
with grazing of the regrowth or aftermath during midsummer. This practice
appears now to be particularly promising. During protracted dry summer
periods the hay or silage previously harvested can be used as supplementary
feed and thereby lighten the grazing load of the suffering pastures. All these
suggestions, of course, imply carefully controlled grazing, since controlled grazing
is necessary in achieving maximum performance from a good pasture.

To most effectively reduce the fluctuation in pasture yields due to weather,
one must fertilize his soil adequately, select and manage his pasture plants judi-
ciously, and plan farming operations carefulh'.


In the foregoing treatment of pastures an attempt has been made first to
review the historical background of pastures in Massachusetts and second to
analyze the principal agronomic factors involved in their present day culture and
management. In actual practice of course, other factors, principally economic,
must be taken into consideration, but many of these vary in importance from time
to time and so are difficult to discuss or evaluate. Taking into account the soil,
the plant, and the weather, the following conclusions seem justified concerning
the production of pasture forage in Massachusetts.

Permanent Pastures

It seems likely that permanent pastures will never again occup>- the position
of prominence they once held. The limited reserve of soil fertility which carried
them through many productive years of existence has long since been exhausted.
If these "run-out" pasture soils could be restored to their original state of fertility
by the superficial use cf fertilizers, this condition would not be so serious; but
such is not the case. The gradual depletion of these old sods meant not only the
loss of mineral nutrient elements alone; it meant the destruction of the virgin

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