Balansa Outperforms Other Clovers in Spring Biomass Growth

The Illinois Cover Crop On-Farm Network (ICCON) kicked off their four-part winter series exploring new and emerging cover crops on November 9th. ICCON was joined by Nathan Johanning, Commercial Agriculture Educator from the University of Illinois Extension, who shared his research on the performance and growth of FIXatioN Balansa.

Nathan’s research is showing that Balansa clover is not your typical clover. It can withstand wintertime temperatures down to -14 degrees Fahrenheit and does exceptionally well in poorly drained environments. Balansa’s remarkable tap root system can also improve water infiltration and soil drainage. But what really sets Balansa Clover apart from the crimsons and berseem is its ability to produce biomass.

Nathan shares his research findings comparing Balansa clover with berseem and crimson clovers.

Nathan’s research showed that the above ground biomass in the fall was less than impressive when compared to the other clovers in the study. However, by the time biomass was sampled in the spring, Balansa Clover had produced nearly a ton more biomass above ground than the closest contender. Lab analysis of the above ground biomass indicated that there were nearly 270 lbs. of nitrogen per acre. However, it remains unclear how much of that nitrogen would become available to a corn crop following termination of the clover.

Balansa Clover provided excellent suppression of summer annual weeds, and the above ground biomass tended to remain on the surface for a fair amount of the cash crop growing season – not quite as long as one would expect from a mat of cereal rye.

In the spring, the Balansa Clover in Nathan’s research fields was chemically terminated with 32 oz. of Roundup Weathermax. This application achieved only 73% control of the cover crop at 14DAT, indicating that additional termination strategies or tank mix partners may be required to achieve full control.

Clearly, there are potential advantages of incorporating Balansa Clover into a cover crop system. The trick is going to be figuring out how to manage it properly for a producer’s desired goal. In Nathan’s work, Balansa clover is a perennial plant that is being used as a winter annual for cover cropping purposes. There is tremendous potential for using it in forage systems especially for dairy producers. It is shown to be a very nutrient dense forage, and it produces a significant amount of biomass.


Balansa clover root growth.

As is the case with most new and emerging cover crops, there are still more questions than answers. With additional time and research, management strategies should become clearer, and producers will be able to employ Balansa Clover in an economically beneficial way.

To learn more about Nathan’s research, or to get in touch directly, you can contact him at The third edition of the Midwest Cover Crops Field Guide, published by the Midwest Cover Crops Council, includes information on Balansa clover and several other popular and up-and-coming cover crop species. Explore their website to find more information on which cover crops might work best for you.

During December’s ICCON call, on December 14 at 9am CT, attendees will have a chance to hear about the development of CoverCress, a commercial seed product developed by university researchers around Illinois through the genetic modification of pennycress. Dr. Winthrop Pippen, Professor of Plant Breeding and Genetics at Western Illinois University, will give an overview of how CoverCress was developed and discuss opportunities for integration into a corn – soybean system. Register here.


If you are interested in joining the Illinois Cover Crop On-Farm Network to learn about new research and hear from cover crop specialists across the Midwest, you can register for our monthly calls or join our google group by sending an email to

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Torey Colburn

Torey Colburn is a Conservation Agronomist with American Farmland Trust. Torey is a Certified Crop Advisor who provides conservation and agronomy technical assistance to farmers and landowners. The technical assistance will result in increased farmer participation and engagement in programs and projects that improve productivity, profitability, and sustainability.