Photo cutline: A buffalo meanders along in the abundant yellow sweet clover which is filling the plains of South Dakota this summer.
By Marj Frew
An ocean of yellow sweet clover has taken over the plains of South Dakota this summer. The biennial plant has a two-year growing cycle, which means it has a year of small growth, followed by a season of abundance.
According to District Conservationist Sandy Huber, the plant has both good and bad characteristics. One advantage of having a large crop of yellow sweet clover, is in honey production.
The disadvantage of the plant is in the problems it causes for native grasses, haying cutting equipment, and cattle.
The plant naturally produces coumarin, which gives the plant a bitter flavor. This natural compound can be a blood thinner, and can cause hemorrhage problems during calving season. The biggest problem for livestock producers this time of year is in the moldy hay that can be caused by the slow drying of the clover.
While driving across South Dakota, the best advantage seems to be the aesthetic quality of the bright yellow plants that stretch for miles across the horizon. The other great advantage to those outside is the sweet smell which is enjoyable to people and bees alike.