Successful forage establishment
By Joel Bagg OMAFRA
May 5, 2015 - A successful forage establishment is a uniform, weed free stand that will grow quickly and vigorously to provide high yields during that first year, and for the life of the stand. The most critical factors include packing a firm seedbed and proper seed placement.
The goals of forage seedbed preparation are:
- to produce a fine, firm, level seedbed that allows good control of uniform seeding depth,
- to leave a well packed seedbed with good seed-to-soil contact,
- to eliminate residue that may harm establishment, and
- to produce a smooth surface for future harvesting operations.
Forage seed is very small, making good seed-to-soil contact essential for germination, particularly in dry conditions. A loose, lumpy seedbed dries out quickly, and lumps make the uniform emergence of young seedlings difficult. A firm, level, clod-free seedbed is very important for uniform seeding depth and good seed-to-soil contact. Avoid creating a soft, fluffy seedbed by deep tillage. Using a spike-tooth harrow before the drill loosens the soil rather than packs it. Soil should be firm enough at planting for a footprint to sink no deeper than 9 mm (3⁄8 in.). If necessary, pack before seeding in addition to packing after the drill. Ideally, forage seedlings should be able to emerge without a rainfall.