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Successful forage establishment

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.

Seedbed Preparation

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.

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