No-till Forage Seeding: Establishment
The greatest advantage of no-till forage seedings following corn is that they permit early planting, which in turn allows emerging forage seedlings to compete more effectively with germinating annual weeds. For adequate soil cover, plant alfalfa, red clover, or crownvetch (alone or with grasses) as soon as the soil surface is dry enough for good soil flow around the drill openers. Delay birdsfoot trefoil seedings until April or early May (2 to 3 weeks after normal earliest seeding dates for alfalfa or red clover).
With early spring planting, an herbicide application may not be necessary at seeding. Although all perennial weeds should have been eradicated during the corn portion of the rotation, if any grassy weeds or winter-annual broadleaf weeds (anything “green”) are present in the field, use Gramoxone Inteon or glyphosate to control them.
Although most drills can handle corn grain residue, removing some of that residue (e.g., for bedding) often increases the uniformity of stand establishment. Most drills do not perform well when corn stalks are chopped and left on the soil surface.
Be careful of triazine residue from the previous corn crop. Carryover of triazine residue is no greater in no-till seedings than in conventionally prepared seedbeds.
Monitor new seedings for the potato leafhopper.
Following Small Grains
Because of moisture conservation, no-till forage seedings following a small grain germinate more quickly than do similar seedings made in conventionally prepared seedbeds in mid- to late summer. Accelerated germination usually leads to increased growth before the killing frost.
Good weed control in the small-grain crop is essential to a weed-free environment for the new seedlings. One of the prescribed herbicide treatments outlined in Part 2 Section 5, “Small Grain Pest Management,” should be used at the proper time during small-grain growth.
Legume and legume-grass mixtures. In all cases, allow at least 7 to 10 days after harvesting the small grain and removing straw before planting the forage crop. If time permits, delay planting until 1⁄3 to 1⁄2 inch of rain has fallen postharvest. This amount of rainfall allows volunteer small-grain seeds to germinate, and the seedlings can be controlled with Gramoxone Extra. In any event, do not delay planting beyond the recommended seeding date for your area.
Brassica. Rape, turnips, kale, and swedes germinate and form a canopy quickly. Using Gramoxone Inteon immediately after small-grain harvest generally provides adequate weed control. Seed immediately after spraying. For seeding rates, see “Forage Selection and Seeding Rates,” above; for recommended fertility and management, see “Annual Forages for Pasture,” below.
In Existing Sod
When possible, avoid planting legumes and/or legume-grass mixtures into an existing sod. Insects, diseases, and allelopathic activity reduce the likelihood of successful establishment. To avoid these risks, consider an alternative forage crop, such as a small grain (rye, wheat, oats), brassica, or summer-annual grass. Using an alternative forage gives additional weed control to supplement a sound herbicide program, providing a better environment for successful establishment of subsequent no-till legumes or legume-grass seedings.
Small grains and brassica crops. When planting small grains for forage or brassicas into sod, best control can be achieved with fall applications of Roundup/Ranger prior to fall preparation. The next spring, follow up with Gramoxone Extra, if necessary, for adequate grass suppression. See “Annual Crops for Forage,” above, for specific information on seeding rates, fertility, and management.
Summer-annual grasses. To stimulate grass production, apply 50 pounds of nitrogen per acre at early green-up of sod. Graze heavily or harvest an early cutting of hay. Allow 4 to 8 inches of regrowth. Apply glyphosate or Gramoxone Inteon and plant immediately. See “Annual Crops for Forage,” above, for specific information on seeding rates, fertility, and management.
Legume or legume-grass mixtures. The prior use of any of the above-outlined crop alternatives greatly increases the chances for successful no-till establishment of legume or legume-grass mixtures. When this cannot be done, and legumes or legume-grass mixtures are established directly into grass sod, note the following guidelines on sod suppression.
Sod suppression is possible through a combination of heavy grazing and application of the recommended herbicides. Either glyphosate or Gramoxone Inteon may be used to control perennial grasses. Glyphosate should be applied when sod has regrown 8 to 10 inches. If Gramoxone Extra is used, apply immediately following grazing. A second application may be required in 7 to 10 days if regrowth is present. Do not apply any nitrogen in seeding year. Soil surface pH in old sods is critical. Test upper 2 inches to establish lime requirements.