No-till Forage Seeding
Minimum or no-tillage establishment of forage crops is being practiced successfully on many Pennsylvania farms. Advantages include fewer soil and moisture losses, lowered fuel and labor requirements, seeding on an already firm seedbed, and much less time spent in stone removal. Research results from a 2-year fuel consumption study conducted at Penn State indicate that conventional seeding of alfalfa requires about 6 gallons of diesel fuel per acre, whereas no-till seeding requires less than 1 gallon. This, along with other factors, represents a significant energy savings.
At first, no-till forage seeding was done to establish or reestablish a forage species or combination of species into already existing grass or grass-legume swards. More recently, no-till forage establishment following various row crops has allowed growers to take advantage of weed and pest control techniques normally provided by a sound crop rotation or an economical cropping system.
All forage species can be seeded no-till. No-tillage seedings of red clover have been the most successful, but alfalfa, birdsfoot trefoil, and crownvetch also can be seeded alone or with a forage grass. With no-till, perennial forage grass species can be seeded alone. Annual crops used for forage, such as summer-annual grasses, small grains, and brassica crops, also can be no-tilled.
The choice of varieties is the same for both conventional and no-tillage techniques.