Researchers in European countries currently participate in the project "Development of White Clover" of the FAO European Lowland Pastures Sub-network. This is a gratifying response to the theme and underlines the widespread consensus of opinion acknowledging the vital role of white clover in grass/clover swards for grazing and/or cutting for conservation. The role and potential of white clover has been intensively investigated by researchers and a stream of satisfactory results in both output and economic terms has steadily emerged in recent years. The work embraces breeding and evaluation, agronomy, physiology, grazing or cutting management, animal performance and economic assessment of production systems.
The role of white clover is increasingly being appreciated by practising farmers, particularly by a number of committed and successful exponents. There are also some notable examples of technology transfer whereby researchers and advisers are guiding groups of farmers in the transformation from heavily N-fertilized swards to reliance upon grass/clover swards. Sustainability and environmental friendliness are key objectives in European grassland farming and grass/clover swards help to fulfil these criteria. Some alternative and sometimes novel uses of white clover have also been documented, particularly its use as a support to arable cropping systems and its role in the wave of extensification policies presently operating in many European countries.
The project started in 1989 and has involved registration of individual research projects (subsequently distributed to Subnetwork members), information newsletters, including reprints of key papers or reviews, from the liaison officer, liaison visits, informal meetings at European conferences and general all-round collaboration. Reviews by members have also been published periodically in "Herba", the FAO Information Bulletin for Subnetworks. A highly successful formal meeting was held in 1990 at Polcenigo, Italy where a wide range of white clover topics were presented and discussed. The proceedings were subsequently published in 1991 as "White Clover Development in Europe" in FAO REUR Technical Series No. 19.
A further meeting was organized in August 1993 at Aarhus, Denmark, with a reduced emphasis on formal papers and more emphasis on workshops in key subject areas and poster presentations; nevertheless, four plenary papers were designated to set the scene. This publication brings together the papers and posters presented at the Aarhus meeting and will undoubtedly form a useful reference base, not only for all members of the Sub-network but for other researchers in the field of forage legume technology.