The wet weather in South Dakota has produced an interesting phenomenon on the prairies out west.
Some pasturelands are covered with sweet clover this year. In some places, as far as the eye can see.
The vast fields of yellow can be a pleasant sight, and a pleasant sensation for the nostrils on a quiet summer evening. Sweet clover is not a native species, and some worry that it might drive out native grasses. That doesn’t seem to be the case yet, but it is being seen more often and over wider areas on western rangelands.
“We’ve noticed in the past six or seven years it does seem to be showing up more frequently,” BLM Rangeland Management, Mitch Iverson said.
It’s good grazing for cattle, if the cattle are allowed to graze early in the season. Later on, it gets a little woody. Sheep do well on it, though.
“It does have some benefits. It can be hayed, if it’s hayed correctly and allowed to dry out,” Iverson said.
There are some risks involved with feeding clover to livestock late in the season.
“When it’s a little bit wet or late in the year, it can be toxic to livestock, so producers have to be careful when they hay it,” Iverson said.
Sweet clover is related to alfalfa. It’s a legume. So it’s a nitrogen fixer.That means it takes nitrogen out of the air and deposits it in the soil.
“Sweet clover fixes nitrogen. So, in that respect, it’s very beneficial. It also has a lot of benefits for wildlife from honey bees to forage for deer and other species,” Iverson said.
Speaking of bees, people often notice that a patch of sweet clover smells like honey. And on a walk through the vast patches of sweet clover this year you’ll hear the sound of buzzing bees. They love the stuff.
Yellow-blossom sweet clover is native to Europe and Asia.