Seed
Seedling
Vegetative Growth
Flowering Plant

Birdsfoot Trefoil

Legume

(Lotus corniculatus)

Birdsfoot Trefoil is a legume, it grows from a basal crown, with numerous stems that can vary from prostrate to erect in growth habit. In some parts of the country it is called the 'eggs and bacon' plant.

Uses

It is used for grazing or silage in some areas, however regular, severe defoliation will reduce the persistence of the plant.

Persistence

It is a medium term perennial, lasting from 2 to 4 years.

Strengths

Birdsfoot trefoil, like sainfoin, contains tannins. It is a bioactive forage legume which can improve protein utilisation in ruminant livestock. These legumes can also combat parasitic nematodes (worms), fix nitrogen, cut down methane emissions and are rich in protein.

Frost Tolerance

Birdsfoot Trefoil is winter hardy.

Yield

5 - 6.5t DM/ha

Sowing Rate Advice

5kgs per acre / 12.5kgs per ha.

Not usually sown as a pure stand in the UK.

Mixture Sowing Rate Advice

0.25 - 1 kg per acre / 0.625 - 2.5 kgs per ha.

Sometimes sown as part of a grazing mixture along with white clover.

Ideal Sowing Time

Sow in spring or autumn, soils must be warm, at least 7 degrees Celsius and on the rise.

Management

Severe defoliation will reduce the persistence of the plant. Also when used in a mixture with grass species, allowing the grass to become tall and block out sunlight will have an adverse effect on birdsfoot trefoil.

Distinguishing characteristics

Seed

Seed
Birdsfoot Trefoil is one of the smallest legume seeds, it is a rounded kidney shape. The colour can be brown or black and shiny, it is about 0.5-1mm in length.

Seedling

Seedling
The seedling develops fleshy, elliptical to oblong cotyledons. They are approximately 3mm long by 2mm wide, with very short stalks. Before developing trifoliate leaves.

Vegetative State

Flowering Plant

Flowering Plant
Normally pale green to matt, dark green in colour, potentially hairless or minutely hairy. The trifoliate leaves alternate either side of the stem, each leaf has a pair of leaflets at the base, which resemble stipules. The yellow inflorescence, sometimes tinged with red, is found at the end of the long peduncle, often 5 flowers are found, although this can vary. It produces several claw like seed pods per flower. The root has a reasonably deep taproot, with the ability to also spread laterally.

Additional Info

Average seeds per kg - 715 000 - 840 000. Average protein content 17-20% (although the tanins in the plant mean the protein is utilised more efficently by livestock).

Works well with

Birdsfoot trefoil is often combined in a Herbal Ley, a very diverse mixture which includes grasses, forage herbs and legumes. The anthelmintic and bioactive properties (condensed tannins) of the plant make a useful contribution to improving livestock health, by reducing bloat, worms and processing protein more efficiently. It is also used with less aggressive species like Timothy, smooth stalk meadow grass and tall or meadow fescue, in more traditional grassland mixtures.

You can find Birdsfoot Trefoil in the following mixtures