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Seeding Tips for Forage and Turf Seed Growers

There’s a lot of factors that go into planting a field. You have to time it just right, choose the right field to seed on, add fertilizer — and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. While it can sound like a difficult task, seeding doesn’t have to be, so here are some tips ahead of planting season.

Field Selection #

BrettYoung Seed Production Specialist Jason Henderson recommends selecting fields that are known to be clean. That means they don’t have weed problems that will be difficult to manage in the following seed crop and are of a soil type suitable for the crop you’re looking to establish. 

Henderson added that planning in advance with post-harvest or pre-emergent herbicide applications will also help you to ensure you get a clean start before the crop and/or cover crop emerge.

“It’s also important to take care when selecting burn off chemicals,” he said. “That will help you avoid any negative impacts from herbicide residues.”  

If you’re planning to establish perennial ryegrass under wheat, you want to avoid using a product like Pre-Pare with your glyphosate as it will have activity on newly emerging grass seedlings.  If you’re establishing perennial ryegrass with canola, you want to avoid using Treflan or avoid using fields where Treflan was applied.

Seeding Timing #

Seeding early in the spring allows you to take advantage of soil moisture. Henderson said cooler weather conditions will extend the moisture availability to the young seedlings. 

“Many forage and grass species are not prone to spring freezing so they can be planted early with the desired cover crop,” he said.

This, in turn, allows for earlier harvest of the cover crop and that benefits the seedlings to help finish establishing in the fall.

Fertility #

When establishing a perennial crop, Henderson recommends considering bumping up the phosphorus (P) and potassium (K) in the year of establishment. You can do this by increasing the P and K being placed with the cover crop seed to the maximum safe levels when placing in-furrow or by broadcasting and incorporating the fertilizer prior to seeding the field.

Cover Crop Selection #

There are many cover crop options out there, but there’s no need to let that overwhelm you — select the crop type that will suit your operation best. Henderson said to take into consideration your rotation:

  • Will you be seeding one pass with a cover crop of canola? Or two passes with a cover crop of wheat? 

“Pick the best available variety,” said Henderson. “The best varieties to use as cover crops will be early maturity ones, short in stature, and with good standability.”

Consider planting the cover crop at a reduced rate too, being careful not to reduce your yield potential but siding on the lower end of your preferred seeding rate.

Seed Placement #

There are a lot of good drill options for under seeding forage and turf seed crops; Henderson said to just stick to the fundamentals. These small-seeded perennials will benefit from a good, uniform seed bed, where you can achieve a fairly consistent planting depth of around ½” to ¾” depending on the species. You also want to make sure you’re achieving good soil to seed contact through row packing, which will help retain moisture in the furrow and allow the seedlings to access it more easily.

For more tips on seeding this spring and to come up with a plan that’s right for your farm, contact your BrettYoung Seed Production Specialist.

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