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Persian clover (Trifolium resupinatum)


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Common names 

Persian clover, shaftal clover, bird eye clover, reversed clover [English]; trébol persa, trébol de juncal, trébol de los prados de Salamanca, trébol de prados [Spanish]; trèfle renversé [French]; trevo-da-pérsia, trevo-de-flor-revirada [Portuguese]; Perzische klaver [Dutch]; Persischer Klee [German]; النفل المتكئ [Arabic]; شبدر ایرانی [Persian]


Trifolium resupinatum L. var. majus Boss., Trifolium resupinatum L. var. resupinatum Gib & Belli., Trifolium resupinatum L. var. microcephalum Zoh., Amoria resupinata (L.) Roskov, Galearia resupinata (L.) C. Presl, Trifolium resupinatum var. suaveolens (Willd.) Dinsm., Trifolium suaveolens Willd.

Feed categories 

Persian clover (Trifolium resupinatum L.) is an annual, prostrate or semi-erect branched legume, up to 20-60 cm high, similar to berseem (Trifolium alexandrinum L.) but shorter. It forms dense swards and has a rosette growth habit under grazing. The stems are hollow, branching from the lower part. Leaves are trifoliate with 1 to 3 cm long, oval-oblong leaflets. Flowers are pink to violet and mature to white woolly seedheads, with a resupinate corolla, hence the name resupinatum. Fruits are dehiscent single-seeded pods (Suttie, 1999).

Persian clover is mostly used for fodder, supplying highly palatable and nutritive pasture and hay. Its high protein and moisture content may make it unsuitable for ensiling, depending on the variety (NSWG, 2003; Suttie, 1999). Hard-seeded varieties (Trifolium resupinatum L. var. resupinatum Gib & Belli. and T. resupinatum L. var. microcephalum Zoh. ), which have a prostrate habit with smaller and thinner stems and yield large quantities of seeds, are often used on dryland pastures and can be locally important in natural grazing (Liz, 2011; NSWG, 2004; Suttie, 1999). Soft-seeded varieties (Trifolium resupinatum L. var. majus Boss), which have an erect habit and thick hollow stems that reach up to 80 cm, have a low seed yield and produce high quality forage that can also be used for silage. However, these varieties are not suitable for permanent pastures, as the seeds germinate too quickly during summer and young plants tend to dry during dry periods (Liz, 2011; NSWG, 2004; Knox et al., 2006). In Afghanistan and Pakistan the young shoots of Persian clover may be eaten as vegetables either fresh or dried for later use. Persian clover is also highly melliferous (GNIS, 2008; Suttie, 1999).


Persian clover originated from central Asia and is now cultivated throughout the world. It is traditionally cultivated in the Middle-East and central Asia (Iran, Afghanistan and northern Pakistan) and in the Mediterranean basin, where it is a major plant for making hay (GNIS, 2008; Suttie, 1999). However, in areas where winter is milder, it has been replaced by berseem (Trifolium alexandrinum), which has a higher productivity (Suttie, 1999; Göhl, 1982). In countries such as the USA, Australia and France, Persian clover is a minor fodder crop which is particularly suited to areas with a Mediterranean climate. It has also been tested in northern areas such as Sweden, Poland and Canada, as well as in South Africa (GNIS, 2008; Suttie, 1999).

Trifolium resupinatum is commonly found in grasslands and disturbed areas, fallows, roadsides and waste grounds within 40°N and the Sahara. It grows up to an altitude of 2500 m in the Afghan uplands, and 2750 m in the Himalayas. It is frost resistant but does not grow under low temperatures. However, it remains dormant under the snow-coat and quickly regrows when temperatures get warmer in early spring. In these elevated areas, it is thus grown as an overwintering annual (Suttie, 1999). Persian clover can grow on a wide range of soils but does better on fertile heavy moist clays. It is tolerant of alkaline soils with pH up to 9 but prefers a pH of about 5. Persian clover is also tolerant of salinity and withstands some waterlogging conditions (GNIS, 2008; AWI et al., 2006; Suttie, 1999). It has been considered more drought tolerant than berseem (Göhl, 1982).

Forage management 

Overwintering or summer catch crop

Persian clover can be sown in pure stands or in association with a cereal crop or an annual grass such as oats or annual ryegrass (Knox et al., 2006; Suttie, 1999). In cold areas, this winter hardy species can be sown in autumn to be used during spring. At high elevations, it cannot be harvested before May: three cuts are possible and the last one is for seeds. In colder places, it is sown in the late spring in association with wheat, so that it is available for grazing or making hay once the cereal crop has been harvested. In warmer places, Persian clover is preferred to alfalfa as it may be cut early enough to sow cereal crops (Suttie, 2000).

Permanent pasture or annual forage

When Persian clover is intended for self-reseeding permanent pasture, smaller hard-seeded types (var. resupinatum) are recommended though they are less productive (Knox et al., 2006; NSWG, 2004). They can be sown with other self-reseeding legumes (Suttie, 1999). The greatest herbage mass is observed during the first year after seeding and declines during the second year (Boschma et al., 2011; Kelly et al., 2005; Kemp et al., 2002). When Persian clover is intended for making hay, tall varieties (var. majus) are required (NSWG, 2004). They can be sown in rainfed or irrigated fields with annual ryegrass or they can be sown in cereal crops such as rice, oats or wheat. However, Persian clover should not be shaded by the cereal as it may dramatically reduce the forage yield (Suttie, 1999).

Persian clover can be cut 2 or 3 times and in irrigated fields optimal cutting intervals were found to be about 6-9 weeks in the growing season, thus allowing DM yields up to 12-15 t/ha (Liz, 2011; Stockdale, 1994c; Villax, 1963). A traditional practice in Afghanistan for conserving hay is to tie the wilted crop onto trusses in order to retain the leaves (Suttie, 1999).

Association with other plants

Trifolium resupinatum is a valuable addition to a barley-ryegrass mixture as it can reduce the need for mineral fertilizers, and improve the mid-season yield and the in vitro digestibility of the forage (Thompson et al., 1997).

Environmental impact 

Soil improver

An N-fixing legume, Persian clover improves soil fertility and is considered to have a better soil improvement potential than berseem (Kumar, 1987). Persian clover can be intercropped with barley and ryegrass (Stout et al., 1997). Grass and cereal crops grown with Persian clover yielded 95% of the yield obtained with 200 kg N/ha (Thompson et al., 1997). In relatively infertile soils, Persian clover is a potent intercrop for rice (Schulz et al., 2000; Schulz et al., 1999a; Schulz et al., 1999b). As a short ley, Persian clover improves pest and disease control while enhancing the yields of other crops in the rotation and reducing fertilizer use (Thompson et al., 1997).

Feeding ruminants on protein-rich irrigated Persian clover may result in increased ammonia production in the rumen and a large N excretion to the soil (Stockdale, 1993c).

Competition with other species

In India, certain types of Persian clover are regarded as a weed in berseem fields (Suttie, 1999). While in vitro experiments showed that Persian clover has an allelopathic effect (though to a lesser extent than berseem) on germinating weeds (Maighany et al., 2007), the efficiency of Persian clover at preventing weed seed development was not confirmed by field trials (Uchino et al., 2011).

Biological control of aphids

Persian clover attracts aphidophagous syrphids (flower flies) that play an important role in reducing aphid outbreaks in vegetable crops (Bugg et al., 2008).

Nutritional aspects
Nutritional attributes 

Persian clover is a nutritious forage, rich in protein and minerals. Compared to other temperate or Mediterranean forages, it has relatively low levels of fibre and lignin. Fresh Persian clover contains from 14 to 27% DM as protein (about 21% on average). NDF, ADF and lignin averages and ranges (DM basis) are 28% (20-35%), 21% (15-27%) and 3% (1-4%), respectively. Mineral content is about 14% of the DM.

Potential constraints 


Cases of bloat have been reported in cattle grazing Persian clover, but not in sheep. The risk of bloat may be reduced by sowing Persian clover with grass in order to reduce the amount of protein-rich legume in the grazed diet, by feeding cattle with dry hay before they enter the sward, by turning cattle out of the stand after midday (to prevent dew or excess moisture) and by using anti-foaming agents such as poloxalene or molasses/urea blocks (Hilton, 2008).

Antinutritional factors

Trifolium resupinatum contains saponins (Simonet et al., 1999) and phenolic compounds (phenolic acids or flavonoids) (Janda et al., 2009; Olezsek et al., 2007) than can be deleterious for the animals. Nevertheless, their levels are generally quite low and should not be a problem, especially when Persian clover hay is mixed with other feeds.



Persian clover is a palatable forage, and more so than common forage species including perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne), fescue (Festuca arundinacea), alfalfa (Simon, 1974) or forage rape (Kaur et al., 2010).

Pasture and fresh forage

Fresh Persian clover has an excellent nutritive value for ruminants, even better than that of red clover (Trifolium pratense) or alfalfa (Medicago sativa), due to a lower and poorly lignified cell wall content that makes it highly digestible (Kim et al., 2004; Singh et al., 1993). In vivo OM and protein digestibility of fresh Persian clover are in the 79-86% and 74-84% ranges respectively. Compared to Trifolium subterraneumTrifolium resupinatum had a lower nitrogen digestibility because of a higher content of hemicellulosic polysaccharides (xylose and mannose monomers) (Li et al., 1994). The rumen DM, OM and protein degradability are also high (Cohen, 2001; McLaren et al., 1988). Wilting fresh forage from 12 to 20% DM decreased nutrient digestibility and milk production in dairy cows (Stockdale, 1993b).

The high degradability of Persian clover can become a problem when it is the only forage grazed by the animals, as it may result in a rumen pH lower than 6, decreased cellulolytic activity, and acidosis (Leddin et al., 2010). This risk is particularly acute when pasture availability is very high: a larger daily allowance leads to higher intakes and transit times, and animals are able to select the most nutritive parts of the plant, which are the most soluble with the least NDF content (Heard et al., 2006), without any change in chewing duration (Williams et al., 2005a; Williams et al., 2005b). Consequently, this causes a decrease in rumen pH accompanied by an increase in VFA concentration and a decrease in the C2:C3 ratio and in the cellulolytic capacity of the rumen (Stockdale, 1993c; Williams et al., 2005b). Animals grazing Trifolium resupinatum spent less time chewing than those grazing grasses such as ryegrass, which increased the risk of acidosis (Williams et al., 2000). Moreover, as with other legumes, the excess of nitrogen in the rumen may result in a wastage of energy, which should be avoided (Heard et al., 2006).

In dairy cows, combining fresh Persian clover with maize silage improved nutrient balance. The proportions of Persian clover and maize silage in the mixture depend on the physiological status of the cows and on their production level (Stockdale, 1994a; Stockdale, 1994b).


The OM digestibility of Persian clover hay is generally lower than that of fresh forage. For instance OM digestibility varied from 54 to 59% from early bloom to seeding and DM intake by sheep increased from 22 to 31 g/kg DM (Khazaal et al., 1993). When fed ad libitum, Persian clover had a nutritive value similar to that of Trifolium subterraneum in wool sheep in Australia (Doyle et al., 1988; McLaren et al., 1988). Trifolium resupinatum included in a total mixed ration at 40% of the diet was ingested at the same level as Trifolium alexandrinum by buffalo calves and had similar digestibilities for DM, crude fibre, but a lower protein digestibility (Kaur et al., 2004).


With an OM digestibility of 59% and a DM crude protein content of 8%, Persian clover straw had a better nutritive value than cereal straws and could meet the requirements of adult buffaloes, which can be interesting during periods of feed scarcity (Kaushal et al., 2006).


Fresh or ensiled Persian clover replaced part of soybean meal in the diet of growing-finishing pigs and significantly reduced feed costs, though it had a detrimental effect on growth and feed efficiency (Kaliszewicz et al., 1992). The optimal cutting stage for good quality silage for pigs are between 10 and 15 days, between the budding stage and start of flowering, when OM digestibility is maximum. Persian clover silage made with a mineral acid mixture or formic acid  additives was of good quality and well accepted (Nonn, 1990).

Supplementing a cereal-soybean meal diet for finishing pigs with up to 15% of Persian clover meal decreased the ME value of the diet but had no adverse effects on nitrogen balance or nutrient digestibility. In order to maintain weight gain and feed conversion efficiency, the maximum recommended level was 10% (Tywonczuk et al., 1997a; Tywonczuk et al., 1997b).


No information found (2012).


No information on the utilization of Persian clover in rabbit feeding is available in the literature (2012). Nevertheless, because it can be used successfully in ruminant or pig feeding, fresh or dehydrated Persian clover may be considered as a protein and fibre source in rabbit feeding. Its nutritive value may be comparable to that of other clover species that have been more extensively studied, such as berseem. However direct experimentation with rabbits would be advisable before extensive use is recommended (Lebas, 2012, personal communication).

Horses and donkeys 

No information found (2012).


No information found (2012).


No information found (2012).

Nutritional tables

Avg: average or predicted value; SD: standard deviation; Min: minimum value; Max: maximum value; Nb: number of values (samples) used

Main analysis Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb  
Dry matter % as fed 11.6 2.1 8.8 17.0 57  
Crude protein % DM 21.6 3.5 13.6 27.4 93  
Crude fibre % DM 18.6 1.8 13.3 21.0 45 *
NDF % DM 28.2 4.9 20.0 36.6 70  
ADF % DM 21.2 3.6 14.9 26.9 70  
Lignin % DM 2.7 0.8 1.3 4.1 61  
Ether extract % DM 3.1 1.6 1.9 5.5 5  
Ash % DM 14.1 2.8 9.3 20.1 78  
Starch (polarimetry) % DM 3.4   1.0 5.7 2  
Water-soluble carbohydrates % DM 7.6 4.4 4.8 14.2 4  
Gross energy MJ/kg DM 17.6         *
Minerals Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb  
Calcium g/kg DM 21.9 7.1 8.4 35.2 16  
Phosphorus g/kg DM 3.9 1.8 1.9 7.7 16  
Potassium g/kg DM 14.6 15.3 3.0 31.9 3  
Sodium g/kg DM 4.7 2.6 3.3 8.6 4  
Magnesium g/kg DM 9.7 4.0 3.7 11.8 4  
Manganese mg/kg DM 78 23 47 100 4  
Zinc mg/kg DM 29 10 19 40 4  
Copper mg/kg DM 11 3 6 14 4  
Amino acids Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb  
Alanine % protein 6.0 0.7 5.4 6.7 3  
Arginine % protein 4.9 0.5 4.4 5.4 3  
Aspartic acid % protein 12.7 0.8 11.9 13.4 3  
Glutamic acid % protein 9.9 0.5 9.4 10.3 3  
Glycine % protein 4.7 0.3 4.5 5.0 3  
Histidine % protein 2.1 0.2 1.9 2.2 3  
Isoleucine % protein 4.6 0.2 4.4 4.7 3  
Leucine % protein 7.4 0.6 6.8 8.0 3  
Lysine % protein 5.2 0.3 4.8 5.4 3  
Methionine % protein 0.8 0.5 0.4 1.3 3  
Phenylalanine % protein 6.0 2.1 4.5 8.4 3  
Proline % protein 5.0 0.4 4.5 5.3 3  
Serine % protein 4.8 0.1 4.7 4.9 3  
Threonine % protein 4.5 0.3 4.3 4.8 3  
Tyrosine % protein 3.5 0.4 3.2 3.9 3  
Valine % protein 5.8 0.4 5.4 6.1 3  
In vitro digestibility and solubility Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb  
DM digestibility, pepsin-cellulase % 71.7 2.1 68.9 77.9 27  
Ruminant nutritive values Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb  
OM digestibility, Ruminant % 76.8 2.6 76.0 85.4 35 *
Energy digestibility, ruminants % 73.4         *
DE ruminants MJ/kg DM 12.9         *
ME ruminants MJ/kg DM 10.3         *
Nitrogen digestibility, ruminants % 78.8 2.3 74.0 84.0 32  
a (N) % 32.7 10.0 6.0 42.3 13  
b (N) % 58.6 11.3 47.0 88.0 13  
c (N) h-1 0.083 0.047 0.043 0.218 13  
Nitrogen degradability (effective, k=4%) % 72 6 62 80 13 *
Nitrogen degradability (effective, k=6%) % 67 6 56 75 13 *

The asterisk * indicates that the average value was obtained by an equation.


Alibes et al., 1990; CGIAR, 2009; Cohen, 2001; Dougall, 1962; Fulkerson et al., 2007; IAV, 2009; Kaur et al., 2010; Leddin et al., 2010; Pace et al., 1984; Sen, 1938; Singh et al., 1992; Stockdale, 1993; Stockdale, 1993; Stockdale, 1993; Stockdale, 1994; Stockdale, 1994; Tisserand et al., 1989; Vargas et al., 1965

Last updated on 02/05/2013 17:23:53

Main analysis Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb  
Crude protein % DM 14.0 3.9 8.1 19.0 8  
Crude fibre % DM 28.4         *
NDF % DM 43.1 6.6 37.3 52.3 6  
ADF % DM 37.1 7.6 28.0 49.3 7  
Lignin % DM 6.6 1.9 4.5 8.9 7  
Ether extract % DM 2.0       1  
Ash % DM 9.7 1.6 7.1 12.1 8  
Water-soluble carbohydrates % DM 2.0       1  
Gross energy MJ/kg DM 18.1         *
Minerals Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb  
Calcium g/kg DM 14.9   14.2 15.5 2  
Phosphorus g/kg DM 1.8   1.4 2.2 2  
Potassium g/kg DM 18.3   17.0 19.6 2  
Sodium g/kg DM 1.8   1.4 2.2 2  
Magnesium g/kg DM 2.2   1.8 2.6 2  
Manganese mg/kg DM 82   41 123 2  
Zinc mg/kg DM 115   36 194 2  
Copper mg/kg DM 9   7 10 2  
Iron mg/kg DM 465   286 644 2  
Amino acids Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb  
Alanine % protein 4.9       1  
Arginine % protein 4.7       1  
Aspartic acid % protein 9.7       1  
Cystine % protein 0.1       1  
Glutamic acid % protein 9.4       1  
Glycine % protein 5.7       1  
Histidine % protein 2.7       1  
Isoleucine % protein 4.5       1  
Leucine % protein 6.2       1  
Lysine % protein 4.2       1  
Methionine % protein 0.9       1  
Phenylalanine % protein 3.9       1  
Serine % protein 4.3       1  
Threonine % protein 4.1       1  
Tyrosine % protein 3.1       1  
Valine % protein 5.6       1  
Ruminant nutritive values Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb  
OM digestibility, Ruminant % 56.2 7.7 51.4 73.0 7 *
Energy digestibility, ruminants % 52.8   52.8 68.0 2 *
DE ruminants MJ/kg DM 9.6         *
ME ruminants MJ/kg DM 7.7         *
Nitrogen digestibility, ruminants % 57.6 15.6 33.8 70.0 6  
a (N) % 25.8       1  
b (N) % 47.1       1  
c (N) h-1 0.039       1  
Nitrogen degradability (effective, k=4%) % 49         *
Nitrogen degradability (effective, k=6%) % 44         *
Rabbit nutritive values Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb  
Energy digestibility, rabbit % 46.2         *
DE rabbit MJ/kg DM 8.4         *

The asterisk * indicates that the average value was obtained by an equation.


Hogan et al., 1989; Khazaal et al., 1993; Li et al., 1992; Li et al., 1994; Margan et al., 1988; McLaren et al., 1988; Susmel et al., 1995

Last updated on 02/05/2013 17:24:24

Datasheet citation 

Heuzé V., Tran G., Giger-Reverdin S., Lebas F., 2015. Persian clover (Trifolium resupinatum). Feedipedia, a programme by INRA, CIRAD, AFZ and FAO. http://www.feedipedia.org/node/244 Last updated on September 30, 2015, 16:16

English correction by Tim Smith (Animal Science consultant) and Hélène Thiollet (AFZ)