Choosing the correct forage variety is crucial as the success of the forage stand depends on the selection of species and cultivars that are best suited for your climate, soil type and intended use of the feed. Consider the parcel you wish to plant and what your end market of the forage as a part of your decision- making process.
The following areas require your attention when establishing a successful forage stand:
Consider what herbicides have been utilized in the past few years to ensure that chemical residual is not present. Weather conditions especially drought years prior to forage establishment may have resulted in herbicide residual issues.
The type of forages being established will determine which herbicides are available to be utilized during the season. Care should be taken to ensure pre-seed burndown is done to reduce weed competition early in the establishment period of the forage. You are very limited in what products are available for in-crop season.
Spring seeding is ideal when soil temperatures have warmed and moisture levels are adequate for ideal germination. Moisture deficiency is often the most common reason for a poor stand establishment, therefore strive to seed into moisture.
Seed placement is extremely important, as a seed depth of ¼ to ½ inch is desired. Good seed soil contact is also essential especially if seeding alfalfas; using harrow packers or rolling the land after seeding ensures this occurs.
Fall seeding can occur if the forage seed is given the opportunity to germinate and obtain 3-4 leaves prior to freezing temperatures, or if the seed is applied just prior to freeze up.
Longevity and yield of your forage stand is determined by the correct choice of varieties adapted to your soil and field conditions. Select a quality seed that has a high germination and excellent seed purity – stay away from common seed. Seed technology is always advancing so consider modern genetics for high productivity, as newer varieties have higher winter hardiness and disease resistance bred into them.
Cost of seed in relations to production accounts for less than 5%, so select the best forage varieties for your operation to optimize success of your stand.
Be sure to do a soil test of the land you are putting into forages. Look at the soil PH, phosphorus and potash levels. Forages are a large draw on these elements and you will end up mining your soil. Be sure to fertilize to the nutrient levels needed to produce the desired tonnage you are targeting. Use of an agronomist will assist you with correctly formulating a crop plan to aid in establishing a long-standing forage stand.
Careful planning and execution will ensure success of a forage stand with longevity and productivity, the effort will ensure satisfactory results.