By: Todd Thomas, Water Resources Forester, Texas A&M Forest Service
Q: Awhile back I noticed on some closed out skid trails that had been revegetated, not only was rye grass used, but they had also used some clover in the mix. Is there any benefit to planting clover when in areas that you are revegetating?
|Revegetated Logging Road, East Texas|
A: I am always glad to hear about revegetation, as it is an excellent method of preventing erosion on roads and other disturbed areas. It is even better to hear of the clover being used in the mix. This is because clover is a type of plant that is also known as a “legume”. Legumes can be important in areas where there has been a considerable amount of soil disturbance such as a skid trail or approach to a stream crossing.
Legumes perform what is called nitrogen fixation. In other words, they take nitrogen from the air and put it back into the soil. Nitrogen is an extremely important nutrient for plant growth. This is why sometimes in agricultural operations you will see peanuts or soybeans used in crop rotation, since they can contribute nitrogen back to the soil that was depleted by the previous crop. In an area with a great deal of disturbance it is important to incorporate something in your revegetation that can contribute back to the soil not only by helping to hold it in place, but by delivering a much needed nutrient that will help other grasses to grow, further preventing erosion.
On page 66 of the blue book, it says that “legumes should be used in mixes with grasses.” On the next page it gives some options for different legumes to use. The legumes that we recommend incorporating are Singletary peas, Hairy vetch, Arrowleaf clover, and Subterranean clover. However, if you choose to incorporate another legume, that is great also. In general, all clovers, as well as plants that have some sort of seed pod (such as peas or beans) are legumes.
A side benefit of planting legumes is that they are a great food source for wildlife. Most legumes are high in protein, and all our deer hunters out there know that additional protein can increase antler growth in whitetail deer. I’m sure the landowner will be extra happy knowing that you have helped their quest for “Muy Grande”. This is just a side benefit while you are doing an excellent job at rebuilding soil productivity and reducing erosion.
So remember to always include legumes in your revegetation and to keep the questions coming. You can email me your questions at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (936)639-8180. Also, be sure to pay a visit to our blog at http://tfswater.blogspot.com. On the blog you can find old Q&A articles, as well as additional information on how to best keep our waters clean while providing the world with forest products.
*This article was published in the December 2012 issue of the Texas Logger