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Clover could remove 1.4 million tonnes of GHG emissions per year

Posted By:
Openfolde Limited

27th Oct 2022

New varieties of clover will significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) through improved nitrogen fixation.

This was the message at the ‘Net Zero for Productive Grasslands’ seminar, hosted in partnership by Germinal and the Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences (IBERS) at this year’s Countryside COP event.

“Clovers can fix between 100-380kg of nitrogen per hectare per year,” explained Dr David Lloyd, head of plant breeding for Germinal Horizon – Germinal’s research and innovation division based at IBERS. “When fixed at the higher end of this range, there is enough nitrogen to support high production livestock systems. It is therefore possible to replace the vast amounts of nitrogen fertiliser applied to UK grasslands with clover-produced nitrogen. This could reduce GHG emissions by more than 1.4 million tonnes CO2 equivalent, and at current prices, could save UK farmers £904 million per year.”

Dr Lloyd explained that to achieve this, clover needs to fix nitrogen at the highest possible level. Germinal Horizon’s ongoing screening and selection of the elite rhizobia strains responsible for fixing nitrogen continues to develop clover’s nitrogen-fixing ability This results in new and improved clover varieties being produced through continued innovation striving for climate-smart solutions.

“We’re also improving clover’s use of phosphorus,” continues Dr Lloyd. “Phosphorus is a limited resource and its mining and production leave a significant carbon footprint, yet legumes like clover traditionally require phosphorus to reach yield potentials. At Germinal Horizon we have just bred white clover types which thrive with less added phosphorus – we expect to submit these to the recommended grass and clover lists next year.”

“Another major contributor to GHG emissions is carbon release from swards when ploughed,” added Dr Lloyd. “We need to reduce how often we plough, and how much we disturb the soil. One way is to breed more persistent varieties which are productive for longer. With older clover varieties you would expect only a two-year lifespan – yet newly bred varieties like AberClaret can last five years.” Dr Lloyd also detailed further advances in this area which included breeding disease and pest resistant clover varieties and developing seed coating technologies to speed up establishment and further reduce the need for ploughing.

Paul Billings, managing director of Germinal, added that over the past five years Germinal’s clover sales had increased by 50%. He said, “The market is responding to the fertiliser price increases, offering us all opportunities to reduce GHG emissions by using more sustainable farming methods. With geopolitical instability causing supply issues, the high prices of fertiliser are not going to go away. The more we can do to become self-reliant, the better.”

To find out more about advances in clover development, visit

About Germinal

  • Germinal is a leading forage specialist developing sustainable grassland varieties and supplying a range of premium agricultural seed to the Irish, UK and New Zealand markets. Founded in 1825, Germinal is a sixth-generation family company, supporting farmers with technical advice and best practice guidance. Working within the industry and alongside partners to share grassland knowledge, Germinal is committed to a responsible future for agriculture.
  • Germinal has research and innovation at its core. Its research and innovation team, Germinal Horizon, comprises scientists at world-leading grassland research centre, Aberystwyth University’s Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences (IBERS) in Wales, and its own R&D farm sites. Germinal Horizon also oversees on-farm trials to confirm new varieties work effectively in a real-life farming situation.
  • Germinal Horizon secures a long-term focus on innovation in forage management and plant breeding, developing products fit for the future, enhancing agricultural productivity and profitability in the face of today’s climate challenges.

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