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Ohio State University Extension


Crimson Clover as a Cover Crop in Ohio

Agriculture and Natural Resources
Sarah Noggle; Educator; Food, Agriculture, and Environmental Sciences; Ohio State University Extension, Paulding County
Rachel Cochran; Extension Associate, Water Quality; Food, Agriculture, and Environmental Sciences; Ohio State University Extension, Paulding County

Information gathered from the Midwest Cover Crops Council (MCCC) was used to compile this summary on how to use crimson clover as a cover crop in Ohio. For more information, see the Midwest Cover Crops Field Guide, Third Edition, and the Cover Crop Selector Tool found at: red flower clusters growing above circular, light-green, smooth-edged leaves.


  • Light-green leaves covered with soft hairs
  • Crimson (dark red) flowers
  • Fibrous taproot

Cultural Traits

  • Winter annual
  • Minimum germination temperature: 42 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Reliable establishment window (state average): June 10–Sept. 28
  • Upright to semi-upright growth habit: 12–20 inches
  • Preferred soil pH: 5.5–7.0
Table 1. Rating the traits of cover crop crimson clover.
Heat tolerance Good
Drought tolerance Good
Shade tolerance Very good
Low fertility tolerance Good

Winter survival

  • Great variation in varietal winter hardiness


  • Drilled at ¼–½ inch
    • 10–20 lb./acre (pure live seed)
  • Broadcast with shallow incorporation
    • 11–22 lb./acre (pure live seed)
  • Broadcast without incorporation
    • 12–24 lb./acre (pure live seed)

Additional planting information:

  • 149,700 seeds per lb.
  • Inoculation type: crimson, berseem.
  • Crimson clover does not frost-seed well.
  • When planting on slopes or using for forage/grazing, increase seeding rate.
  • When interseeding, time seeding to match appropriate crop growth/maturity.
  • Broadcasting without incorporation is usually less dependable than drilling or broadcasting with incorporation.

Disclaimer: Rules for Financial Assistance Program Recipients
Individuals participating in financial assistance programs are required to follow Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Appendix A regarding seeding rates and dates. Failure to do so will jeopardize payments. Appendix A can be found in Ohio’s Field Office Technical Guide, Section 4, Ecological Sciences Tools:


  • Dry matter = 3,500–5,500 lb. per acre, per year.
    • Biomass quantity is highly dependent on planting/termination dates and precipitation.
  • Total nitrogen (N) = 70–150 lb. of N per acre (not fertilizer replacement).

Additional performance information:

  • May cause bloat when grazed
  • Rates excellent for early interseeding
  • Good for underseeding
  • Does not host sugar beet cyst nematode and is a poor host for soybean cyst nematode
  • Does not tolerate flooding
Table 2. Rating the attributes of cover crop crimson clover.
Nitrogen source Very good
Soil builder Very good
Erosion fighter Very good
Weed fighter Very good
Grazing Excellent
Lasting residue Good
Mechanical forage harvest Excellent
Grain seed harvest Good
Cash crop interseed Very good


  • Tillage
    • If terminating with only tillage, multiple passes are often required.
  • Chemical

Additional termination information:

  • Crimson clover may winter-kill, depending on weather conditions.
  • Crimson clover can reseed if maturity is reached.
  • Follow NRCS guidelines for cover crop termination dates to comply with crop insurance.
Table 3. Potential advantages of cover crop crimson clover.
Soil Impacts


  • requires entire growing season to see subsoiling effects
Frees phosphorus (P) and potassium (K) Good
Compaction fighter Very good
Disease Good

Chokes weeds

  • small-seeded legume seedlings that are not very competitive with weeds
Very good

Attracts beneficials

  • excellent pollinator if allowed to flower in the spring
Short windows Good

Potential Disadvantages

Delayed emergence: could be a minor problem

Increased weed potential: occasionally a minor problem

Increased insects/nematodes: could be a minor problem

Increased crop diseases: could be a minor problem

Establishment challenges: occasionally a minor problem


This publication was adapted with consent from the Midwest Cover Crops Council (MCCC) with content from the Midwest Cover Crops Field Guide, Third Edition, and Cover Crop Selector Tool ( It was created under a joint project with MCCC to produce customized introductory guidance about cover crops for all member states/provinces. Ohio cover crop recipes can be found at

The Midwest Cover Crops Council ( aims to facilitate widespread adoption of cover crops throughout the Midwest by providing educational/outreach resources and programs, conducting new research, and communicating about cover crops to the public.

Funding for this project was provided by the McKnight Foundation.

Red square with white lettering spelling McKnight Foundation.



Originally posted Apr 5, 2023.