Red clover: Between medicine cabinet and feeding trough
If you believe healing practitioners from different eras, the red clover is not a plant, but rather a product of the pharmaceutical industry. Flowers, seeds and leaves should help against worm infestation, rheumatism, gout, cough, liver problems, menstrual problems, ulcers and diarrhea. In addition, red clover is said to lower blood lipids, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and even cancer-inhibiting. Scientific evidence for this astonishingly wide range of applications is as rare as it is contradictory.
However, it cannot be dismissed out of hand that red clover contains a lot of unusual ingredients such as tannins and especially isoflavones, which can influence the metabolism of humans and animals. This group of substances also includes phytoestrogens, which have a weak sex hormone effect in humans. They are also the reason why capsule-shaped red clover is often touted as an alternative remedy for menopausal symptoms. But even with this effect, the professional world has very different opinions.
By contrast, the importance of red clover for agriculture, especially for organic farmers, is refreshingly clear. With a protein content of over 20 percent, it is a valuable feed for cattle, which the animals also like to eat. The roots, which are up to two meters long, loosen the soil in deep layers and form a lot of valuable organic material that benefits soil fertility.
And it gets even better: red clover in the field harmonizes wonderfully with valuable forage grasses such as Welschem or German ryegrass and is therefore usually grown in clusters as clover grass. The grass is very high in energy and requires a lot of nitrogen, which the red clover, like all legumes, accumulates in the soil via its roots - in large quantities. Up to 200 kilograms per hectare come together each year, which is more than the grass needs.
Gold is worth its weight in organic farming because subsequent crops such as cereals or potatoes can use the excess nitrogen. In addition, flowering red clover is a laid table for insects. However, only certain types of bumblebees can enjoy themselves on clover nectar because they have a long trunk, which is necessary for the narrow and deep flower clusters of red clover. With their short proboscis, honeybees are hardly used.
The biggest enemy of the red clover is the dark clover shrew, a small black beetle with a short trunk that completely gnaws leaves and flowers when it is heavily infected. Unfortunately, it has not yet been investigated whether it does this because of the many health-promoting properties of clover. Jürgen Beckhoff, aid