Trifolium repens L. (White clover)

Crop Type: Open field crop

Breeding system: Predominantly allogamous

Clover is a creeping, low growing perennial crop in the family Fabaceae. Domestication of white clover is thought to have occurred around 400 years ago (Zeven, 1991). It is allogamous and relies heavily on insect pollinators (Goodman and Williams, 1994). It is an important crop in temperate zones, being grown mainly for forage. It also has other established uses including phytomanagement of metal polluted sites. The root system of the plant takes up metals such as zinc, lead and cadmium (Bidar et al., 2007).

Clover is a legume and fixes nitrogen in its root nodules, thereby increasing quality of surrounding soil (Carlsson and Huss-Danell, 2003). This is achieved through the plant’s symbiotic relationship with the bacterium Rhizobium trifolii, which involves taking atmospheric nitrogen and converting it into ammonia, a useful nitrogenous soil compound (Deacon, 2015). Nitrogen fixation is an important part of the nitrogen cycle and is key to successful agriculture.

  • Bidar, G., Garcon, G., Pruvot, C., Dewaele, D., Cazier, F., Douay, F., Shirali, P. (2007). Behaviour of Trifolium repens and Lolium perenne growing in a heavy metal contaminated field: plant metal concentration and phytotoxicity. Environmental Pollution 147: 546-553
  • Deacon, J. (2015). Nitrogen fixation. [online] Available at: [Accessed 23 Nov. 2019].
  • Goodman, R. and Williams, A. (1994). Honeybee pollination of white clover (Trifolium repens L.) cv. Haifa. Australian Journal of Experimental Agriculture, 34(8), p.1121.
  • Zeven, A. (1991). Four hundred years of cultivation of Dutch white clover landraces. Euphytica, 54(1), pp.93-99