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Field testing in the national white clover improvement programme

M.R. Norton and R.D. FitzGerald

NSW Agriculture, Agricultural Research and Advisory Station, Glen Innes NSW 2370

The first stage of National White Clover Improvement Programme (NWCIP) field testing will strengthen the description of white clover, Trifolium repens, plant types required for different Australian environments. This will facilitate selection of appropriate groups from the NWCIP germplasm collection for subsequent evaluation in target environments. Field testing will also assess new, or untested cultivars, and provide the opportunity to validate and refine a white clover growth model (1).

Prior evaluation of white clover in Australia has largely been restricted to measurement of plant yield and persistence, rarely attempting to explain contrasting performance of cultivars. NWCIP field testing attempts to overcome this limitation in the following ways. Firstly, the sampling of a relatively large number of comprehensively described climatic and edaphic environments together with uniform trial management will permit detailed examination of genotype/environment interactions. In addition, the involvement of plant pathologists and entomologists will identify biotic constraints and determine their regional significance.


A group of 17 cultivars representative of the 3 leaf size sub-species of white clover and consisting of types with contrasting phenology is being evaluated in pure swards at 17 sites over 3 years. The test group was selected to ensure that a range of documented responses to biotic and abiotic stresses was included as this should assist identification of constraints to production and persistence in each test environment. Six of these cultivars are also being evaluated in the presence of grass in the same experiment and trials are 'crash-grazed' after each harvest to subject cultivars to grazing effects. Performance data includes seasonal yield, persistence, phenology, habit and invertebrate pest and pathogen infestation.

The 17 sites were selected to ensure that each major white clover region in Australia is represented as well as including some marginal sites. Testing sites are located at Inglewood (Qld), Glen Innes, Inverell, Grafton, Orange, Berry, Yanco (NSW), Kyabram, Ellinbank, Timboon, Hamilton (Vic), Cressy, Elliot (2 sites) and Jericho (Tas), Flaxley (SA) and Wokalup (WA). This network will allow the development of a comprehensive database describing white clover performance throughout Australia. We suggest that this regional evaluation system is a model appropriate for use in preliminary field evaluation of other pasture species.


Cooperating State Departments of Agriculture in NSW, Victoria, Tasmania, SA, WA and Queensland. The Wool Research and Development Corporation and the Dairy Research and Development Corporation provided funds.


Hill, M.J., Archer, K.A., Hutchinson, K.J. 1989. Proc. XVI Int. Grassld Cong. Nice, France. pp. 1043-1044.

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