Use Care When Planting Forage and Pasture Crops
Posted: September 4, 2012
This is an ideal time of year to plant forage crops and for them to establish. However, for a forage seed to have a chance of emerging and establishing the seed cannot be planted too deep and there must be good seed-to-soil contact. Regardless of the seeding method (no-till, conventional tillage or broadcast) it is very important that seeding depth and seed-to-soil contact be a top priority. Planting forage seeds too deep can exhaust the energy reserves in the seed before the new seedling has emerged. This causes poor seedling establishment which can spell problems (increased weed competition, lower forage yields, and ultimately shorter stand life) for the stand. Ideally, forages should be planted about 1/4 inch deep. Planting depths greater than 1/2 inch will decrease forage seedling emergence as much as 50%. Seed-to-soil contact is also important because it ensures that the seeds can absorb adequate water from the soil to germinate. Poor seed-to-soil contact slows water absorption and allows water to evaporate out of the seed.
Beware of planting too late. Below are two graphs showing what you can expect as planting dates get later and later into the fall. Planting alfalfa between Sept. 1 and Sept. 15 in central Pennsylvania and after Sept 15 in southeast Pennsylvania resulted in poor winter survival and low yields the year after planting. Orchardgrass did a little better when planted in late September but still didn’t have much vigor or yield the following year.
- Professor of Forage Management