Kent wild white clover

Crop: Trifolium repens L. (White clover)

Kent wild white clover is a forage crop. In traditional agriculture clover may be rotated to maintain soil quality. While clover generally is important to maintain soil quality, there seems to be relatively little literature relating specifically to Kent Wild White Clover. This may be reflective of a low interest in this landrace, or simply of the low amount of protection generally afforded to English landrace crops.

Cultivation System: low-input conditions.

Geographical Information

Country: United Kingdom

Kent Wild White Clover grows in a variety of habitats including pastures, lawns, and verges, as long as it is not in shade. It is an allochthonous landrace. It originated in the Kent area but has also been introduced into some regions of Scotland and is now locally adapted to both areas (Villa et al., 2005).


Farmer(s) description:

Kent Wild White Clover is usually grown as a forage crop due to its high protein content (Wilman and Hollington, 1985). Not only does this crop provide nutritious feed for animals, it also improved the quality of the land on which it is grown due to its nitrogen fixing capabilities. This makes it a popular component when sowing forage. It is sown from May to September and often in combination with traditional grass crops such as ryegrass or Timothy. It is known that pollinators such as honeybees are important to seed yield of Kent Wild White Clover, but yield can also be increased by halting any grazing in late May (Haggar and Holmes, 1963).

The main constraint facing those who wish to cultivate Kent Wild White Clover is that is occasionally succumbs to viruses such as alfalfa mosaic virus. When this occurs, there is no control option, and no cultivars of clover are resistant, making the only option to reseed (Secure.caes.uga.edu, 2008).


Propagation system: Seed, cross-pollination

Multiplication procedures and consequences on landrace diversity:

Kent Wild White Clover relies on pollination from insect pollinators (Goodman and Williams, 1994). Seed maturity is reached 4 weeks after pollination. As there is an association between this landrace and the Kent Wild White Clover and Perennial Ryegrass Seed Growers Association, it can be assumed that some growers may save a portion of seed from each year’s crop and store it for the next year. This would retain local adaptations. If the harvest failed, however, it is likely that these adaptations would be lost as there is reportedly only one ex situ Kent Wild White Clover accession held by the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development Northern Ireland (Veteläinen, Negri and Maxted, 2009).

Management plan existence:

Management currently relies predominantly on maintainers of this landrace.

Added Values

Market - existing and novel:

White clover is mostly used as a forage crop, as it is very nutritious and high in protein. It fixes nitrogen in surrounding soils and adds protein to any grass species it is grown with (Wilman and Hollington, 1985). It also has an important role in phytomanagement of metal polluted sites. The root system of the plant takes up metals such as zinc, lead and cadmium (Bidar et al., 2007).

Alongside traditional uses for clover, there are several alternative benefits from cultivating it. It can be grown and left on fields as green manure, with all of the accumulated nitrogen in the plant being returned to the soil (Ten Holteand Van Keulen, 1989). This could be achieved by cutting the clover crop periodically throughout the growing season and leaving cuttings as mulch. The benefits from the mulch would be in addition to nitrogen fixing, soil quality improvement, and the prevention of soil erosion that is normally associated with this crop.

There is also a small market for food products derived from clover landraces such as Kent Wild White Clover. Clover flowers are very important for honeybees and honey production (Parente and Frame, 1993).

Others (e.g. commercial/geographical brands or special traits):

This landrace does not appear on any common plant variety registers, having been deleted from the European Union plant variety database in 2013 (Ec.europa.eu, 2019). It is considered to be of Least Concern on the ICUN Red List, but this assessment was last reviewed in 2010 (IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, 2019).


Kent wild white clover previously appeared on the European Union plant variety database, but was deleted on 31/10/2013 (Ec.europa.eu, 2019). This landrace is associated with the Kent Wild White Clover and Perennial Ryegrass Seed Growers Association (Veteläinen, Negri and Maxted, 2009).

There is no English equivalent to SASA’s Scottish Landrace Protection Scheme so seed for this and many other landraces are not protected against harvest failures. Although this landrace is grown in some hilly areas of Scotland, it does not come under the Scottish Landrace Protection Scheme (Sasa.gov.uk, 2019). There is reportedly an ex situ Kent Wild White Clover accession held by the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development Northern Ireland (Veteläinen, Negri and Maxted, 2009).

Other than this, there appears to be limited interest and conservation efforts focused on Kent Wild White Clover. Local adaptations are likely to be lost should there be a widespread failure.

As there are very limited protections in place for this landrace, the responsibility for conserving it lie with associations such as the Kent Wild White Clover and Perennial Ryegrass Seed Growers Association, and the farmers who currently grow it.

There is at least 1 ex situ Kent wild white clover accession, with the holding body being the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development Northern Ireland (Veteläinen, Negri and Maxted, 2009). Access to this resource is unknown, for further information the department should be contacted directly at daera.informationmanager@daera-ni.gov.uk.

Case study provided by University of Birmingham, United Kingdom.