Selecting the proper varieties is critical to the establishment and productiveness of forages. It is important to select well adapted varieties that are insect and disease resistant with good seedling vigor and post-harvest re-growth and yield potential. Establishment is essential to produce a productive stand. Vigorous stands are required for high yields, and the proper plant population is critical during the initial planting for seed propagated forages. A thick stand leaves little of the soil surface visible. Plant density varies with forage species and will tend to be less under dry, less fertile conditions. As crowns develop during tillering, plant numbers will decrease because less productive plants fail to compete for light, water and nutrients and vigorous plants produce new shoots following harvests.The seedbedSuccessful establishment begins with proper seedbed preparation. Soil tests should be conducted to correct pH, phosphorus (P) and potassium (K) prior to planting. Phosphorus and potassium do not move in the soil and should be incorporated prior to planting. Nitrogen (N) should be applied as needed in split applications. Legumes should only receive 1/2 of the nitrogen that is required for grasses since legumes will synthesize their own nitrogen once established.All forage grasses grow best under neutral (6.0-7.0) pH and fertile soils. Some species will persist under less than ideal conditions, but perform best with proper management. Forage grasses differ in their tolerance to drought, water logged soils, and frequency of harvests. The seedbed should be firm, but loose enough to allow root penetration with small soil particles to allow for good seed-to-soil contact. Plowing, disking, and harrowing the seedbed usually accomplishes this.Methods of sowing
Drilling is superior to broadcasting when the soil conditions are dry or the soil is light. Drilling in rows however, provides for weed establishment between the rows. Broadcasting gives a better seed distribution and ground cover. With broadcasting, seed must be covered with soil to ensure good seed-to-soil contact.
Ital. Ryegrass, 4n
Ital. Ryegrass, 2n
The influence of seeding depth on the germination of different species.
Danish Field experiments
Summer August 1st
Fall September 1st - October 1st
Spring- cereal, peas
Time of sowingSpring or late summer is the best time for seeding. In the spring, the moisture is almost always adequate - in midsummer this is often not the case. Again in august, the moisture is normally sufficient and at this time soil temperature ensures a good and quick germination.Seeding RateSeeding rate is determined by seed size and adjusted for pure live seed and other conditions that may affect establishment. Seeding rate should be increased when soil or climatic conditions are less than ideal. Enough seed should be planted so the seedling plants occupy the area as they emerge and develop. When seeding a new stand with a companion species such as legume, seeding rate should be decreased to allow establishment of the companion species.Fertilizer applicationSoil analysis is a good guide to fertilization. Fertilizer applied in early spring and mid-summer should have a good nitrogen content to encourage growth. Fertilizer applied in the fall should have lower nitrogen content, but a higher phosphate and potash content to encourage root growth.WeedsSpraying against annual weeds can be necessary in pure stands where there is less competition. Perennial weeds must be treated with a broad-sprectum herbicide before seeding as new weeds develop.Summary – sward establishment
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