For south Alabama cattle producers, an enduring challenge has been finding an effective way to grow legumes in Coastal Plains soils.

Clover and legumes confer many advantages — first and foremost, biological nitrogen fixation. In these hard economic times, complicated by frequent spikes in fertilizer costs, growers have more incentive than ever to grow legumes.

"In the last few years, rising production input costs combined with less-than-optimum cattle prices have put cattle producers in an economic squeeze, which has made the advantages of growing legumes even more attractive," says Don Ball, an Alabama Cooperative Extension System forage grass specialist and Auburn University professor of agronomy and soils.

But legumes also aid producers in other significant ways by improving forage grasses as compared to grasses alone and enabling producers to extend the growing season.

But for south Alabama producers, the challenge remains how — how to grow legumes in Coastal Plains soils.

"The benefits of using clovers in grazing systems are well known, but trying to find a perennial legume or a reseeding annual or legume that functions well within these soils has been a challenge," says Eddie Jolley, an agronomist with the Natural Resources Conservation Service in Alabama.