Forage Seeding Timing

A number of questions have been coming in regarding establishing a forage seeding.

In many places things have dried enough to work some of this fallow ground. The idea of getting a new seeding established this year is a good strategy for acres that were planned for a spring 2019 seeding or were “on deck” for a spring 2020 seeding; however, just because the field conditions are ok right now does not make this a good time to plant a seeding. July is about the worst time to try to establish a seeding.

While we have had plenty of moisture to date (and I have heard many comments along the lines of ‘what difference does a few weeks make’) the weather to date is no guarantee of what the next 4-6 weeks will have in store for us and a few weeks CAN make a big difference.

 

Challenges of a July seeding (the list is short but the challenges are significant)

  • Adequate MOISTURE
  • Weed competition (and likelihood weeds will go to seed before a killing frost)

Conversely we don’t want to be too late, the proper timing is late summer, not fall. Have fields prepared and ready to seed as soon as the calendar hits August.

While it is true that there is a risk that field conditions may be ok now and too wet for field work again by the beginning of August, that risk is marginal compared to the cost of a failed seeding.

LEAVE THE COMPANION CROP (aka OATS) IN THE BAG

Companion crops are not recommended with late summer seedings. Their growth results in significant competition to the new seeding and significantly reduces the chances of successful seeding establishment.

  • Companion crop out competes the new seeding
  • Fall harvest of a new seeding is not recommended no matter how good it looks
  • If the weather turns wet and fall clipping of the companion crop is not feasible it is likely to suffocate the seeding during winter/spring

The above are considerations if the desire is to successfully establish a field for 2020 and beyond.

If the more pressing need is forage to harvest in 2019 then leave the alfalfa/grass/clover in the bag until spring 2020 and plan to establish a summer forage crop for harvest this fall. As we enter mid-July, there are still a few options for summer annual forages but you need to look at the cost of them compared to their expected performance given the remaining growing season left.

 

 

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