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Research on Imperial Whitetail Clover

"In most natural Whitetail habitats, protein levels fall well below the ideal for optimum antler development. Plantings of high-protein, all-year forages, such as Imperial Whitetail Clover are essential, especially where large numbers of trophy-antlered deer are desired. On overpopulated Whitetail habitats, Imperial Clover can help support your Whitetail herds and improve their overall health at the same time, while your deer population is being brought into balance with the food supply."
Dr. Wiley Johnson  - Director of Forage Research


Imperial Clover is the first and best clover product developed specifically for Whitetail deer


 Man with a Young Whitetail Deer

We are often asked, “What makes Imperial Whitetail Clover so special?”  The answer to this question can be summed up in one simple statement: Imperial Whitetail Clover contains the only clovers ever developed specifically for whitetail deer.


Imperial Whitetail Clover was developed by The Whitetail Institute’s Director of Forage Research, Dr. Wiley Johnson.  The perennial clovers in Imperial Whitetail Clover are unique in the world in that they were bred over many years from clovers we gathered worldwide for the specific purpose of breeding the best possible year-around forage plants for whitetail food plots.  In the 1980s, The Whitetail Institute gathered seeds for approximately one hundred different clovers from areas of the world where clover actually originated, such as Iran and Turkey, and from Southern Europe.  We also took the best candidates from the commercial seed market in the U.S.  Then, we started cross-breeding these clovers to develop specific traits, including early plant vigor, attractiveness to whitetail deer, heat and cold tolerance, drought tolerance, disease resistance, year-around availability, and high nutritional content. 

Another differentiating characteristic of Imperial Clover is digestibility.  Digestibility typically decreases as plants mature.  This is because compounds such as lignin, which is required to keep a plant upright as it matures and provide the mature plant with rigid structure, build up in the cell walls of plants as they mature.  Such compounds are good for plants but bad for deer because they are nearly completely indigestible.  A plant’s leaves are more highly digestible and nutritious than its stem, and deer will usually not even eat the stem if it has hardened.  Most clover varieties available today are much more stemmy than Imperial Clover because they were designed for hay production for domestic livestock such as cattle.  Cattle have a much greater capacity to digest stemmy forages, so most clovers were designed for heavy, tall growth which requires more stem.  As previously mentioned, deer do not have the same ability as cattle to digest mature forages, so clovers designed for cattle and hay production offer at best a hit-and-miss food source for deer.  Imperial Whitetail Clover, on the other hand, is designed to stay in a vegetative state for a longer period of time, and most of the growth occurs in the leaves and not the stem.  This allows Imperial Clover to have a higher nutrient content, be more attractive, stay attractive longer, and be more digestible by deer than other clovers.

Unlike other clovers, Imperial Whitetail Clover is also designed to be “user friendly” - it was designed to be easier to establish and last longer than other clovers.  Imperial Clover is heat-resistant, disease-resistant and cold-tolerant.  In fact, Imperial can stay green an incredible 12 months out of the year compared to other clovers that are only available 3 to 6 months out of the year. 


Imperial Clover comes pre-inoculated and coated so it is ready to use right out of the bag.  Among other things, our special coating and inoculation allow for a much higher germination rate than other clovers, especially during stress conditions. 

Researcher with Imperial Whitetail Clover 

When it comes to attractiveness, Imperial Clover has no equal.  One of the required traits that we bred toward when creating Imperial Whitetail Clover was to make it the most attractive food plot available to deer.  After all, it doesn't matter how nutritious a food plot is if deer won't eat it.  Imperial Clover exceeds our highest expectations.  Because of its design, Imperial Clover is a lush, sweet, highly digestible forage that is a virtual magnet to deer ― it actually pulls deer from surrounding areas.


Imperial Clover also stays up and green longer, and in more areas of the country, than other plantings - until Imperial Clover was developed, no single planting was known to us that would stay green and productive 12 months a year throughout the U.S. and perform well from Canada to Florida, weather permitting.


In short, Imperial Whitetail Clover has always been and remains the standard by which all other food-plot offerings are measured, and when we completed work on the new Insight Ladino Clover and added it to the Imperial Clover blend in 2004, we raised the industry benchmark again. 

The procedure was repeated through many breeding cycles until one hybrid that contained all the desired characteristics was developed. The result, Advantage Ladino Clover, has been the back bone of Imperial Whitetail Clover blend for many years.  In 2004, The Whitetail Institute completed research and testing of another new clover variety, which was again developed by The Whitetail Institute specifically for use in whitetail food plots.  This new clover, Insight Ladino Clover, is highly drought-resistant and has been added as an additional component of the Imperial Whitetail Clover blend. (An excellent article about Insight is available (Click Here).


It was this hybridization process that gave Imperial Whitetail Clover the traits that are unmatched by other clovers.  Keep in mind that there is no such thing as a “typical” clover - there are literally hundreds of different types of clover, and each has its own specific characteristics.  Some are sweet, and some are bitter.  Some grow quickly, and some grow slowly.  Some are higher in nutrients than others.  There are some clovers that deer won’t even touch.  The take-home message is that all clovers are different, and you cannot simply buy “clover” and expect it to perform well as a deer food plot.  You may as well walk into a boat store and simply tell them you want to buy “a boat.”   You may have wanted a ski boat, but what you may end up with is a houseboat instead.  Both are boats, and both will keep you out of the water, but each has its own specific traits.


So, exactly what are the traits that have made Imperial Whitetail Clover the No. 1 food plot blend in the world?   First, Imperial Whitetail Clover has a much higher nutrient content than other clovers.  The protein content of clovers generally ranges from 13%, or lower, to 25%.  In contrast, Imperial Clover averages up to 30% to 35% protein.  Of equal importance, Imperial Whitetail Clover holds its high-protein content throughout the entire year.  The protein content of other clovers can drop significantly at different points in their growth cycles, and this can be detrimental to antler growth and lactation.  Furthermore, some clovers such as red clover must flower for reproductive purposes, a process that heavily robs the plant of energy and nutrient content.  Because Imperial Clover stays alive through its root system and does not have to reseed itself, it does not loose energy and nutrients from heavy flowering.



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