Birdsfoot Trefoil – Norcen

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Norcen birdsfoot trefoil (Lotus Coniculatus L) (Reg. No. 6) was developed through the cooperative efforts of members of the NC-83 Technical Committee, “Seed Production of Breeding Lines of Insect Pollinated Legumes”. It was released jointly by the Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New York and Wisconsin Agriculture Experiment Stations in 1981. It was tested experimentally as NC-83 Syn. The name Norcen refers to the cooperation among the North Central states in cultivar development and to the North Central Regional adaptation of the cultivar.

The availability of birdsfoot trefoil seed has been poor, and varietal availability has been limited to cultivars with restricted adaptation. Therefore, there is a need for an improved cultivar with wide adaptation and an adequate seed supply. The cooperative breeding and research efforts of the NC-83 project sought to correct this problem by evaluating 30 superior clones from breeding programs at the Agricultural Experiment Station of Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, and Missouri for several agronomic traits. The 30 clones were established in replicated tests at Urbana, Ill.; Ames, IA; Rosement, MN; Columbia, Mo.; Fargo, ND.; and Corvallis, Ore. (1) Based on clonal and open-pollination progeny performance for persistence, forage yield, plant characteristics, and seed yield, nine clones were selected as the parents of Norcen., The clones were 1A E12-1, 1A R9-5, 1A R14-7, IL9, IL10, 1L13, MO9, M025, AND MO73.

Norcen is a broad-leaved, intermediate growth habit birdsfoot trefoil cultivar with a diverse genetic background that should provide the resiliency to adapt to different environments within the North Central region. Norcen yielded about 6.0% more dry matter than the check cultivar “Leo”, when evaluated over 35 test years in 11 states. In Minnesota, Norcen was the highest in seed yield, but was somewhat less winter-hardy than “Carroll”. It flowers somewhat earlier than Carroll, but later than “Viking”. Preliminary data indicated that Norcen is adapted also to the northeastern region of the U.S.A.