PLANTING TIPS PAGE

Clover and Legume Inoculation

What is an inoculant?An inoculant is a product that effectively introduces Rhizobium bacteria on a seed at planting. Effective inoculation with rhizobia results in the formation of root nodules that fix nitrogen for the plant and soil.How does an inoculant...

Clover & Legumes

The following information will provide general guidelines on basic management and production practices of most clovers and legumes. These guidelines are general applications and objectives and are intended only as a general guideline for clover and legume productions....

Warm Season Annual Forages

Warm Season annual crops are planted mainly for temporary pastures or hay crop. These forages are relatively fast growing, are high forage producers, and managed properly, make excellent quality forages and hay. Management of these varieties are more intense than for...

Warm Season Perennial Grasses (New Planting)

Warm season perennial grasses are normally used for permanent or semi-permanent pastures, or hay production. There are two categories of warm season perennial grass; native or improved (introduced) varieties. Native varieties refer to those plants that originated from...

Warm Season Perennial Grass Management (Established Stands)

Weed Control in Established Warm Season Perennial PasturesThe importance of weed control in improved as well as native pastures is an essential element in pasture management. A producer can expect to gain one pound of desired forage or grasses for every one pound of...

Clover and Legume Inoculation

What is an inoculant?

An inoculant is a product that effectively introduces Rhizobium bacteria on a seed at planting. Effective inoculation with rhizobia results in the formation of root nodules that fix nitrogen for the plant and soil.

How does an inoculant work?

Rhizobium inoculants act as symbiotic biofertilizers. The introduced rhizobia form nodules on the roots of a specific legume host. These nodules convert (or “fix”) atmospheric nitrogen (N2) into essential plant building blocks (e.g. amino acids, proteins etc.).

When should I use an inoculant?

Rhizobium inoculants should be used when planting any legume or clover crop. Inoculation can provide an economic return to the farmer in all legume planting situations.

What does a sticker do?

A sticker can significantly increase the adhesion of inoculant to the seed surface. Without a sticker, the product will fail to adhere to the seed, and accumulate in the bottom of the planter box. The most convenient sticker is one that is integral or actually a part of the product, allowing a quick, clean and easy inoculation.

What does a safener do?

A safener is added to an inoculant to help protect the rhizobial cells against desiccation and pesticide exposure. Rhizobia will quickly die on the seed surface if left unprotected (even when a liquid inoculant dries on the seed, these essentially naked cells will quickly die). Additionally, the safener helps protect the Rhizobium cells from pesticides.

How do you apply the inoculant?

There are several methods to apply an inoculant. For proper procedures, follow the directions on the inoculant package.In general, there are two methods of applying an inoculant. These methods are determined by the type of inoculant purchased. The most common is the slurry method application, where typical applications are discussed below. Other inoculation include planter blox applications which are applied to the seed dry.

The traditional slurry method which is used with most peat based inoculants is accomplished by placing the content of inoculant package in approximately 2/3 pint of a water and corn syrup or molasses solution. Stir thoroughly.

In a washtub or bucket pour 1/4 of the required seed and 1/4 of the slurry mixture onto the seed. Mix thoroughly. Repeat process until all required seed is treated. If the seed is wet, allow to set for no longer than thirty minutes to allow to dry.

Plant immediately.

Clover & Legumes

The following information will provide general guidelines on basic management and production practices of most clovers and legumes. These guidelines are general applications and objectives and are intended only as a general guideline for clover and legume productions. Some practices may not be applicable to all management situations.

Planting Clovers & Legumes (General) Warm season annual legumes should be planted when soil temperatures are above 65°-70°F. Cool season legumes should be planted when soil temperatures are lower than 65°F. Actual planting dates will be dictated by moisture conditions and soil temperatures. Planting depth will be determined by seed size. Plant larger seed (peas, Cowpeas, vetch, etc.) at a depth of 1-1 1/2″, and smaller seed ( small seeded clovers) at 1/4 to 1/2″. Make sure there is adequate moisture, good seed to soil contact and firm ground around seed by rolling or packing. If rain is in the forecast, rolling or packing may not be necessary. Always inoculate seed with the proper inoculums before planting.

Drill Planting Drill planting ensures adequate seed placement as well as good seed to soil contact. Therefore, lower planting rates can be used. When drill planting clover and legumes in a prepared seed bed it is beneficial to have a smooth weed free and clod free seedbed. If the drill does not have packer wheels; roll or pack immediately after planting. When no till drilling or sod seeding, remove excess grass or sod to a height of 2-4″. It is recommended to plant using a heavier planting rate than with a conventional seed drill. Always remember, that when planting, large seed legumes the large seed box on the drill may be used. When planting small seeded legumes a small seed box attachment must be available on the planter, and is recommended to properly calibrate the seed drill to ensure proper planting rates.

Broadcast Planting Broadcast seeding of clovers and legumes is accomplished by scattering the seed over the top of prepared ground. When sod seeding, the seed is placed into existing sod or grass stubble. Broadcast applications do not ensure uniform ground coverage or proper planting depth. Always use higher seeding rates to ensure proper stand establishment and uniformity. If broadcasting large seeded legumes onto a prepared seedbed, lightly disc or harrow after planting, and follow with a roller or packer. When broadcasting small seeded legumes and clover on a prepared seedbed, pull a light drag, or roll with roller or cultipacker immediately after planting. When broadcasting, small seeded clovers and legumes into a existing sod, the most import factor for success is seed to soil contact as well as reducing and controlling stubble height on existing sod. After broadcasting seed, it is mandatory to lightly disc or harrow, and attempt planting immediately before expected rain.

Fertilizing Cool and Warm Season Legumes and Clovers Legumes and Clovers are very unique in that they have the ability to convert and utilize atmospheric nitrogen. Therefore, legumes and clovers do not need nitrogen fertilizer. However, in order for these plants to utilize this nitrogen they must be inoculated at planting with the proper nitrogen fixing Rhizobium bacteria. These bacteria are found on the roots of the legume or clover plant and live in a symbiotic relationship with the plant. One could say that the plant gives the bacteria a place to eat and sleep, and the bacteria pays the rent by assisting the plant in utilizing or fixing the atmospheric nitrogen. However, if a legume crop has a high nitrogen supply or if nitrogen is available in the soil, the nitrogen fixing bacteria will not allow the plant to fix atmospheric nitrogen. Also, if proper inoculation is not achieved or clovers fail to produce nodules, the legume crop will require supplemental nitrogen for adequate crop growth. Although legumes do not need nitrogen fertilizer if properly inoculated, they do require higher levels of Phosphate and Potash and calcium (Lime) than do perennial grass, annual grasses or other forages. When fertilizing for clovers and legumes, fertilize according to soil test. Apply and incorporate required Phosphate (P205), Potash (K20), Lime (Ca), during seedbed preparation.

If soil pH is low and lime is required, application and incorporation of lime should be done the season before legume establishment. This will provide ample time for the lime to go into soil solution and raise soil pH to desired levels. Without a soil test apply 40-100 units of Phosphate (P205), 50-100 units of Potash (K20). Use lighter rates on heavier clay type soils, and higher rates on sandier type soils. For liming and micro nutrient applications, always utilize a soil test to determine these levels. Adding too much lime or micro nutrients can cause excessive tying up of nutrients and create plant growth problems. In addition, legumes will replace an average of 50 units of nitrogen per acre. This nitrogen will be available for plant use the following season and will save producers up to $15.00/acre in nitrogen fertilizer cost.

Weed Control The type of weed control program will be determined by management objectives as well as planting methods. When planting clovers in a prepared seedbed, some herbicides may be used to control undesirable weed problems. When planting in existing sod as described in sod-seeding or no-till drill applications, mechanical practices (shredding) may be the only alternative for weed control. However, herbicide technology is rapidly improving and there are selective weed control herbicides, such as Pursuit, that can be sprayed directly over certain medics. Be sure and read herbicide label instructions before applying.

Grazing Management When grazing legumes and clovers, it should always be remembered that bloat problems may persist if grazing pure stands of clover. Most legume crops especially cool season clovers have high bloat potential. There are many varieties such as Bigbee Berseem as well as Hubam Sweet Clover, that show very little bloat problems. However, these clovers are more stemmy than most other varieties and therefore provide filler to reduce the effects of bloat problems.

To reduce bloat potential, it is recommended to mix cool season clovers with ryegrass, or small grain such as oats, wheat, or tricticales. This will reduce intake of high protein forage as well as provide higher levels of production for fall and winter grazing. When grazing cool season clovers, utilize clovers as a protein supplement.

Never continuous graze clovers unless mixed with small grain or ryegrass. It is also recommended to supply plenty of dry roughage for animals to reduce clover intake. Cool season clovers should not be grazed until the clovers have had a chance to establish a strong root system, usually when there is at least 6-8″ of top growth. If the variety planted is a reseeding type clover, reduce stocking rates at flower to about 50% normal stocking rates. This will allow the clovers a chance to flower and set seed. If not a reseeding variety, graze throughout the season. It is also recommended to use pasture rotation on most clover and legumes. This provides adequate time for re-growth.

Warm Season Annual Forages

Warm Season annual crops are planted mainly for temporary pastures or hay crop. These forages are relatively fast growing, are high forage producers, and managed properly, make excellent quality forages and hay. Management of these varieties are more intense than for perennial grasses. If managed properly, these varieties will produce excellent yield and top quality hay. Problems associated with these forages are an accumulation of nitrates and prussic acid, which can be deadly for all classes of livestock. Millets, forage sorghums and other sorghum type plants should be fed to cattle and wildlife. Caution should be exercised when feeding any sorghum species to horses. For horses millets are the animals forage of choice.

Planting Management of Warm Season Annual Forages

One disadvantage of planting warm season annual forages is that a seedbed must be prepared on an annual basis, and the crop must be planted every year.

Forage management is similar to those of warm season grasses: grazing must be controlled. For hay production stubble height needs to be carefully monitored to ensure proper re-growth.

With most annual forages, planting should not begin until soil temperatures are above 65O- 70O F . Many sorghum type forages are very sensitive to low soil temperatures and initial growth will be slow and germination may be reduced if planted to early. When planting, plant at proper planting depths, depending on variety. Plant larger seed (sorghum type forages) at a depth of 1-1 ½” deep, and smaller seed (Millets) at ¾ to 1″. Most millets are daylight sensitive and should not be planted until there are twelve hours of day light. Make sure there is adequate moisture, good seed to soil contact and firm ground around seed by rolling or packing. If rain is in the forecast, rolling or packing may not be necessary.

Drill Planting

Drill planting ensures adequate seed placement as well as good seed to soil contact. Therefore, lower planting rates can be used. When drill planting annual forages it is beneficial to have a smooth weed free and clod free seedbed. If the drill does not have packer wheels, follow behind planter with a roller or packer.

Broadcast Planting

 Broadcast seeding of annual forages is sometimes blended with fertilizer and is broadcast over the top of the prepared ground. Broadcast applications do not ensure uniform ground coverage or proper planting depth. It is important to use higher seeding rates when broadcast seeding to ensure proper stand establishment and uniformity. After broadcasting seed over soil surface, light discing or harrowing will assist in covering the seed with soil. Firm seedbed after planting with a roller.

Seed Bed Preparation

For adequate growth and establishment, a firm, clean weed free seedbed is required. Seedbed preparation includes disking, chiseling, harrowing and rolling to firm seed bed and conserve moisture. Fertilizer should be applied and incorporated during this period.

Seedbed preparation is recommended in the late winter or early spring (January- March). This will allow enough time to intercept several spring rains to ensure adequate moisture in the lower soil profile before planting. A light cultivation may be needed prior to planting to remove any weeds that may have germinated since initial seedbed preparation.

Fertilizing Warm Season Annual Forages

Annual crops such as Haygrazer (Sorghum X Sudan), Forage Sorghums, Millets, Hegari and other warm season forages require different fertilizer methods than warm season grasses, and must be managed quite differently.

When fertilizing these crops, fertilizer application should be split in two applications. The first application should be applied during seed bed preparation, before planting. The second application after first hay cutting or graze down. The application rates on these forage should be monitored according to environmental conditions, as well as intended use of the crop.

Apply all required Phosphate (P205), Potash (K2O) and 2/3 Nitrogen (N) before planting. Incorporate fertilizer in to 6-8 inches of topsoil. Because these are annual crops, growth rate is much faster than perennial crops; therefore the actively growing plants will utilize the added nitrogen quite readily. Apply remaining 1/3 required nitrogen after 1st cutting or graze down to stimulate re-growth. When applying a topdress application, it is always recommended that the application be made when rain is in the forecast, and conditions are favorable for good growth. Under drought conditions, or heavy rainfall periods, where flooding may persist, the second application of Nitrogen fertilization is not recommended.

For hay production, if a third cutting of hay is desired, an additional 1/3 rate of required Nitrogen may be applied if moisture is adequate. (Optional).

Weed Control

Weed control is limited because of the quick growth and height of forage. Best weed control programs begins with a weed free seedbed. Because the value and the production expense associated with the crops are relatively high, weed control should be kept to a minimum.

Many producers, especially those who drill plant on wide rows as indicated for grazing, may shallow cultivate, if desired.

Under most situations many producers may elect to apply a herbicide after plants reach 12-15 inches. However, care should be taken, because many sorghum varieties are very sensitive to commonly used herbicides in the early growth stages.

When planted at higher seeding rates and under favorable conditions many weeds will be shaded out by the tall erect forages.

Managing Warm Season Annual Forages for Grazing

Annual forages intended for grazing purposes should be row planted for total utilization. Plant at a lower seeding rate. Many producers find that planting in row widths of 14-24″ provide satisfactory forage production and seeding cost can be reduced by as much as 50%.

Planting in rows 14-24″ wide, allows the cattle a place to walk, reduces trampling and waste as seen with broadcast applications. The forage should be grazed when plants are 24-30″ high. Graze forage to an 8-10″ stubble height.

All annual forages should be controlled grazed to utilize high forage quality and production. If conditions such as drought or excessive rains persist, caution must be taken to avoid Nitrate and Prussic acid poisoning. If grazing is necessary, supply plenty of dry forage or hay, and limit access to the field for only several hours a day.

Managing Annual Forage Crops for Hay Production.

If the crop is intended for hay production, higher planting rates are recommended. High planting rates ensure higher plant populations, which in turn result in finer stem hay.

Most annual forages should be cut and baled before boot stage. At this stage, protein values are around 10-16%, has 65-70% digestibility and the plant has not had time to form a hard joint or node (this is dependent on the variety and species planted). When cut at this stage, regrowth will be greater and an additional cutting can be expected. Another advantage is that during this stage the plant has not begun dropping its lower leaves.

Warm Season Perennial Grasses (New Planting)

Warm season perennial grasses are normally used for permanent or semi-permanent pastures, or hay production. There are two categories of warm season perennial grass; native or improved (introduced) varieties. Native varieties refer to those plants that originated from a specific area and at some point in time the dominant range or pasture forage. Introduced species are those species which were introduced into an area, from a different origin. Many introduced species have become well acclimated to a specific area and are considered naturalized species. The term perennial refers to a plant that lives for many years. Or it could be said that these grasses with proper management are permanent.

What Type of Grass to Plant

Plants selected for seeding depend on management objectives. Many grasses are better suited for grazing and others are more suited for hay production or intense management. Often, mixtures of native and/or introduced species are seeded together, partly as an attempt to simulate natural conditions. Using a mixture is helpful because all areas have variations in soil, moisture and slope, and each species in the mixture is adapted better than other species to certain site characteristics. For instance, variation in rooting habits of species in the mixture allows for more efficient use of moisture and nutrients from the various soil depths. Also, the mixture usually extends the grazing season because each species varies slightly in its period of lush growth and dormancy. Finally, a mixture provides a varied diet that is more desirable to animals.

Under certain conditions, a pure stand of a single species is more desirable. Species low in palatability and needing special management, or species requiring intensive management, should be planted alone. In addition, many introduced species are easier to manage when planted in a pure stand.

Usually, plants best adapted to an area are native ones or adapted strains of introduced or improved species. It is best to select grasses that are growing in the area, so it is important to determine the original source of seeds of native species. When available, use certified named varieties. Generally, seed of native species should originate from local sources or from within 200 miles north or south and 100 miles east or west of the area to be seeded.

 Use seed of known quality. Know the germination and purity of the seed, since seeding rates are based on pure live seed (PLS).

Where to Seed

Planting pasture or rangeland is expensive and the risk of failure is always present, carefully consider areas to be planted. When the management objective is to improve range or pasture condition, evaluate the quantity and distribution of current desirable plants. If desirable plants make up less than 10 to 15 percent of the vegetation, seeding may be necessary. If desirable plants are uniformly distributed and make up more than 10 to 15 percent of the vegetation, use grazing management or weed control practices to improve range condition.

Often however, another management decision dictates the necessity for planting. For example, seeding usually is necessary following a brush control method, such as root plowing that destroys the existing sod. Also, when a better seasonal balance of forage supply is desired, seeding usually is required because the species needed to extend the period of green forage are not present. These plants often are introduced species and are seeded in pure stands.

In addition, seeding is the most effective way to establish desirable vegetation on abandoned cropland, since natural re-vegetation processes may take 50 to 100 years on land barren from farming. On other bare areas, such as newly constructed dams and newly laid pipelines, seeding to establish a plant cover often is necessary to prevent wind and water erosion.

Seed only those sites having sufficient potential to insure reasonable chances of success. First, survey the area to determine if there is a mixture of range sites or if one predominates; then, decide whether the sites are suitable for planting. If the area is a mixture of sites, expend the most effort on ones with the best chance for success. Select planting sites so the area can be incorporated into the overall ranch management.

Sites with sufficient soil depth for adequate root development and water storage or sites that can be modified mechanically to accomplish a greater effective soil depth usually are suitable. However, avoid barren, rocky sites, which have greater temperature extremes at the soil surface and are more droughty than sites with soil and litter on the surface. Low soil moisture and wide temperature extremes can kill plant seedlings.

Although the amount of precipitation received on an area cannot be controlled, select sites that receive runoff water, thereby increasing the amount of moisture available. However, do not disturb steep, potentially erosive areas.

Seedbed Preparation

Seed bed preparation is the most important practice in establishing warm season perennial grasses. This practice is the single most important and overlooked practice of ranchers and livestock mangers today. More planting failures can be avoided by proper seed bed preparation.

One phrase to always remember in concerning seedbed preparation is “THE SMOOTHER THE BETTER”.

An ideal seedbed is firm below seeding depth, free of weeds and has moderate amounts of mulch or plant residue on the soil surface. A major purpose of seedbed preparation is to reduce existing plant competition.

Keep seedbed clean until planting, this may include additional “shallow” (2″) cultivation, to remove germinating weed seedling. Before planting it is recommended that the field be rolled or firmed by rain to ensure a firm seedbed.

When to Plant

Planting warm season perennial grasses should be done when seedlings will have the longest possible period of good growing conditions for establishment. Planting should be timed so that seed can germinate as soon as the favorable growing season begins. Seedling growth may be curtailed by low temperatures, dry weather, or competition from weeds or other vegetation.

Planting in the late spring and early summer is most successful in the southwest were spring rains and summer rains prevail. The exact date depends on the local precipitation pattern, the species used, the method of planting and the time of weedy growth.

In many areas, where fall rains persist and potential frost date is late,(late November or early December) fall plantings have been beneficial. Fall plantings should be done early enough to allow plant growth 60 -90 days before first frost.

Planting Methods

The two most common methods of seeding perennial warm season grasses are drill planting (row) and broadcast applications.

Drilling is a superior method because the seed is placed in the soil at a controlled planting depth, thus improving the probability of stand establishment. When using this planting method, the seedbed must be clean, free of rocks, stumps and other litter. This method is not suitable for rocky rough terrain, as associated with many range seeding.

Broadcast applications refer to spreading the seed over the soil surface. Broadcast applications can be accomplished through scattering the seed by hand, rotary spreader, with air stream or exhaust or seeder boxes of the fertilizer-spreader type. Broadcast seeding seldom is effective without some soil disturbance before the seeding operation. Small, slick seed lend themselves to broadcast seeding much better than fluffy seed.

Seeding Rate

Seeding rates depend upon the species, method of seeding and potential site productivity. Seeding rates of many grass species are based on pounds of pure live seed (PLS) per acre. PLS is the percentage of the bulk seed material that is live seed. This is determined by multiplying percentage germination by percentage purity of the lot of seed. When hard seed are involved, PLS = (percent germination + percent hard seed ) x percent purity.

Planting Depth

Optimum seeding depth is dependent on seed size. Since smaller seeds have a smaller quantity of stored energy, do not seed them as deeply as larger seed. As a rule, grass seed should be planted 1/4 inches deep . When using a mixture of small and large seed, always plant at the depth of the small seeded variety in the mixture. Planting small seeded grass seed too deep is the single most reason for crop failure.

Management After Planting

Protect a newly seeded area from grazing until plants are established. Some species establish sooner than others, but in general, plants should be well rooted before grazing to prevent pulling up the seedlings. Length of deferment from grazing varies. In exceptionally good growing conditions, deferment through one growing season may be sufficient. During periods of harsh growing conditions, however, 2 or 3 years of deferment may be necessary. Grazing during dormant periods may help improve the stand by scattering and trampling seed into the soil. After plants are established, practice good grazing management to maintain the seeded stand.

During the first year little growth may be observed with perennial forages. Some perennial grasses may show only a few small brown leaves their first dry season and be almost invisible until they resume growth the next year. Because of this, plantings should not be plowed or replanted until they have had ample time – at least 2-3 years to demonstrate success.

Newly seeded perennial grasses need to be protected from grazing until the seedlings are large enough to withstand pulling and trampling by livestock. This may require 1- 3 years. depending on weather, and other growing conditions. As a rule of thumb it is best to keep livestock off newly seeded pastures until seed heads appear. Weather it be after the first growing season or after several years.

Weed Control in Newly Planted Perennial Warm Season Grass

Weeds compete for moisture, light as well as space and nutrients. In newly planted warm season perennial grasses, weed control is required, to ensure adequate growth and stand establishment.

 Early weed control begins during the fall before the initial spring planting, during seedbed preparation. Early seedbed preparation consists of deep disking and or chisel plowing, in mid November or December. Remove, all existing forage or ground cover is recommended. At this time apply and incorporate all phosphate, potash, micro- nutrients and lime as required by a soil test. Do not apply any nitrogen. Level seed bed to desired smoothness.

Allow fall and winter rains to firm seedbed and build up subsoil moisture. As weed seed began to germinate, cultivate field very shallow, to remove newly sprouted weeds. This may be done several times before planting.

After planting, weed control in perennial warm season grasses is best managed by shredding. Herbicide applications can injure or weakened grass seedling, so it is not recommended to spray any herbicide until stands are established, or after the first growing season

Fertilizing Newly Planted Perennial Grasses

When fertilizing a newly established perennial warm season grass. A soil test is recommended. Many people attempt to guess on what the crop needs, however they are normally unaware of what is actually needed.

During early season land preparation, (November- December) apply and incorporate all required potash, phosphate, lime and micro nutrients (Zn, FE, Cu etc.) as recommended by soil test. Incorporating these elements by deep disking will ensure that adequate nutrients are in the root zone area (6-8 inches below soil surface) and reduce losses due to leaching and washing. Fertilizing during this period will also allow time for fertilizer to go into soil solution and be readily available when required for adequate plant growth during the spring the following year.

Since initial growth of perennial grass seedlings are slow, and the main emphasis in early season growth, is root development no nitrogen fertilizer should be applied until the newly planted grass seedling are 6″ in height. At this point, a top dress application of nitrogen may be applied to stimulate top growth and yield.

 Applying nitrogen fertilizer, before or at planting will create excessive weed competition, and will not be adequately utilized by desired grass seedlings. The application of excessive nitrogen at early stage of growth (seedling to 5-6 leaf stage) will only increase cost of establishment, not only in fertilizer cost but weed control cost as well.

Warm Season Perennial Grass Management (Established Stands)

Weed Control in Established Warm Season Perennial Pastures

The importance of weed control in improved as well as native pastures is an essential element in pasture management. A producer can expect to gain one pound of desired forage or grasses for every one pound of weed destroyed. Thus potential yield increase can be as high as 75% in severely weed infested fields.

 Herbicide applications are the most common means of weed control. Herbicide should be applied at spring green up in March through early May depending on weather conditions and locations. The type of herbicide and rate of application used will be determined by the type of weeds, growth stage, soil type, as well as management objectives. If clovers are to be managed in the fall, do not use any chemical with extended residual control. Products such as Grazon P+D, Amber or Ally should be used with caution. Products such as 2,4-D, and Weedmaster have proven their ability to provide adequate broadleaf weed control without excess residual effects

 Depending on the severity of weed infestation, a second application of herbicide after the first hay cutting or graze down may be required.

 Another effective and relatively inexpensive means of weed control is mowing or shredding. This is very beneficial in controlling annual weeds. This method of control is best utilized when weeds begin to flower, but before seed set. Shredding can be utilized not only to control weeds but also to enhance forage quality and forage growth, thus is most beneficial in grazing operations.

 When Mowing or shredding, leave at least six inches of stubble height. Initial shredding should be done according to weed development, plant growth and flowering stage of the plant. In severely infested pastures, early shredding may be beneficial to reduce weed competition. Thus allowing more sunlight and space for desirable grass development.

Fertilizing Established Warm Season Grasses

Fertilizing established perennial warm season grasses will be determined by management practices and intended use of pasture or land. Many grasses have the capability of utilizing different levels of nutrients, and some grasses respond better to higher levels of fertilizer than others do.

 The most commonly used fertilizer components applied to pastures are Nitrogen (N), Phosphate, (P205), Potash (K20), and to a lesser degree lime (Ca). In lower pH soils, applications of lime (Ca) may need to be applied. In high pH soils with excessive sodium or calcium, Gypsum applications may be required. The application of either lime or gypsum should be confirmed by a soil test. Most micro nutrients such as Zinc (Zn), Iron (Fe), Magnesium (Mg), as well as other micro nutrients are typically ignored, however, deficiencies of these nutrients can retard plant growth and limit utilization of major nutrients such as N, P, K, and Sulfur.

Fertilizing for Grazing Purposes

It is recommended, that most Phosphate, Potash, Lime and gypsum should be applied and incorporated (mixed in the soil) to receive full utilization and benefit from these fertilizer components. By incorporating these elements into the soil, these nutrients are placed in the root zone, where maximum utilization can be obtained. Application of these nutrients should be done every 2 -3 years, during stand renovation or soil aeration practices. Soil test on an annual basis to monitor nutrient levels in the soil.

 When moisture is adequate, nitrogen applications, for grazing management should be applied in two applications per season. The first topdress application should be applied at spring green-up between March and May (depending on location and climate). For most grasses, 40-50 units of Nitrogen is adequate for the first application. This will give the desirable grasses a boost of top growth, reduce weed competition as well as increase forage quality. A second application of 40-50 units may be applied after the first initial graze down or in midsummer. Always apply nitrogen fertilizer when expected rains persist to reduce losses due to denitrification and volatilization.

Fertilizing For Hay Production

For hay production, a more intense fertility program is required. Since most of the forage is being removed, very little nutrients are being replaced. One could say, that hay production is a method of mining the soil of its minerals and nutrients, therefore fertility practices are the most important management objective in obtaining high quality and high yielding hay.

Potash (K2O), phosphate(P2O5) and micronutrients should be applied and incorporated to receive full benefit of fertilizer components. These components will need to be replaced more readily or in higher amounts than in grazing pastures and should also be done during stand renovation or aeration practices.

Nitrogen applications should be applied throughout the season. Most improved grasses respond well to 120-180 units of nitrogen per season. For native grasses, 80-120 units of nitrogen per season are adequate. These rates should be split into two to three separate applications, depending on the number of cuttings expected per year. The first topdress application should be applied at spring green up, the subsequent applications after each hay cutting. Soil tests your fields on an annual basis to monitor nutrient needs.

Over-seeding Cool Season Forages in Perennial Grasses

Warm Season perennial grasses may be over-seeded with cool season annuals to obtain year around grazing and total land utilization. This can be accomplished by using a no-till drill or an aerator/ soil scarifier and planter such as the Vaquero.

Warm Season Perennial Grasses (New Planting)

Warm season perennial grasses are normally used for permanent or semi-permanent pastures, or hay production. There are two categories of warm season perennial grass; native or improved (introduced) varieties. Native varieties refer to those plants that originated from a specific area and at some point in time the dominant range or pasture forage. Introduced species are those species which were introduced into an area, from a different origin. Many introduced species have become well acclimated to a specific area and are considered naturalized species. The term perennial refers to a plant that lives for many years. Or it could be said that these grasses with proper management are permanent.

What Type of Grass to Plant

Plants selected for seeding depend on management objectives. Many grasses are better suited for grazing and others are more suited for hay production or intense management. Often, mixtures of native and/or introduced species are seeded together, partly as an attempt to simulate natural conditions. Using a mixture is helpful because all areas have variations in soil, moisture and slope, and each species in the mixture is adapted better than other species to certain site characteristics. For instance, variation in rooting habits of species in the mixture allows for more efficient use of moisture and nutrients from the various soil depths. Also, the mixture usually extends the grazing season because each species varies slightly in its period of lush growth and dormancy. Finally, a mixture provides a varied diet that is more desirable to animals.

Under certain conditions, a pure stand of a single species is more desirable. Species low in palatability and needing special management, or species requiring intensive management, should be planted alone. In addition, many introduced species are easier to manage when planted in a pure stand.

Usually, plants best adapted to an area are native ones or adapted strains of introduced or improved species. It is best to select grasses that are growing in the area, so it is important to determine the original source of seeds of native species. When available, use certified named varieties. Generally, seed of native species should originate from local sources or from within 200 miles north or south and 100 miles east or west of the area to be seeded.

 Use seed of known quality. Know the germination and purity of the seed, since seeding rates are based on pure live seed (PLS).

Where to Seed

Planting pasture or rangeland is expensive and the risk of failure is always present, carefully consider areas to be planted. When the management objective is to improve range or pasture condition, evaluate the quantity and distribution of current desirable plants. If desirable plants make up less than 10 to 15 percent of the vegetation, seeding may be necessary. If desirable plants are uniformly distributed and make up more than 10 to 15 percent of the vegetation, use grazing management or weed control practices to improve range condition.

Often however, another management decision dictates the necessity for planting. For example, seeding usually is necessary following a brush control method, such as root plowing that destroys the existing sod. Also, when a better seasonal balance of forage supply is desired, seeding usually is required because the species needed to extend the period of green forage are not present. These plants often are introduced species and are seeded in pure stands.

In addition, seeding is the most effective way to establish desirable vegetation on abandoned cropland, since natural re-vegetation processes may take 50 to 100 years on land barren from farming. On other bare areas, such as newly constructed dams and newly laid pipelines, seeding to establish a plant cover often is necessary to prevent wind and water erosion.

 Seed only those sites having sufficient potential to insure reasonable chances of success. First, survey the area to determine if there is a mixture of range sites or if one predominates; then, decide whether the sites are suitable for planting. If the area is a mixture of sites, expend the most effort on ones with the best chance for success. Select planting sites so the area can be incorporated into the overall ranch management.

Sites with sufficient soil depth for adequate root development and water storage or sites that can be modified mechanically to accomplish a greater effective soil depth usually are suitable. However, avoid barren, rocky sites, which have greater temperature extremes at the soil surface and are more droughty than sites with soil and litter on the surface. Low soil moisture and wide temperature extremes can kill plant seedlings.

Although the amount of precipitation received on an area cannot be controlled, select sites that receive runoff water, thereby increasing the amount of moisture available. However, do not disturb steep, potentially erosive areas.

Seedbed Preparation

Seed bed preparation is the most important practice in establishing warm season perennial grasses. This practice is the single most important and overlooked practice of ranchers and livestock mangers today. More planting failures can be avoided by proper seed bed preparation.

 One phrase to always remember in concerning seedbed preparation is “THE SMOOTHER THE BETTER”.

 An ideal seedbed is firm below seeding depth, free of weeds and has moderate amounts of mulch or plant residue on the soil surface. A major purpose of seedbed preparation is to reduce existing plant competition.

Keep seedbed clean until planting, this may include additional “shallow” (2″) cultivation, to remove germinating weed seedling. Before planting it is recommended that the field be rolled or firmed by rain to ensure a firm seedbed.

When to Plant

Planting warm season perennial grasses should be done when seedlings will have the longest possible period of good growing conditions for establishment. Planting should be timed so that seed can germinate as soon as the favorable growing season begins. Seedling growth may be curtailed by low temperatures, dry weather, or competition from weeds or other vegetation.

 Planting in the late spring and early summer is most successful in the southwest were spring rains and summer rains prevail. The exact date depends on the local precipitation pattern, the species used, the method of planting and the time of weedy growth.

In many areas, where fall rains persist and potential frost date is late,(late November or early December) fall plantings have been beneficial. Fall plantings should be done early enough to allow plant growth 60 -90 days before first frost.

Planting Methods

The two most common methods of seeding perennial warm season grasses are drill planting (row) and broadcast applications.

 Drilling is a superior method because the seed is placed in the soil at a controlled planting depth, thus improving the probability of stand establishment. When using this planting method, the seedbed must be clean, free of rocks, stumps and other litter. This method is not suitable for rocky rough terrain, as associated with many range seeding.

Broadcast applications refer to spreading the seed over the soil surface. Broadcast applications can be accomplished through scattering the seed by hand, rotary spreader, with air stream or exhaust or seeder boxes of the fertilizer-spreader type. Broadcast seeding seldom is effective without some soil disturbance before the seeding operation. Small, slick seed lend themselves to broadcast seeding much better than fluffy seed.

Seeding Rate

Seeding rates depend upon the species, method of seeding and potential site productivity. Seeding rates of many grass species are based on pounds of pure live seed (PLS) per acre. PLS is the percentage of the bulk seed material that is live seed. This is determined by multiplying percentage germination by percentage purity of the lot of seed. When hard seed are involved, PLS = (percent germination + percent hard seed ) x percent purity.

Planting Depth

Optimum seeding depth is dependent on seed size. Since smaller seeds have a smaller quantity of stored energy, do not seed them as deeply as larger seed. As a rule, grass seed should be planted 1/4 inches deep . When using a mixture of small and large seed, always plant at the depth of the small seeded variety in the mixture. Planting small seeded grass seed too deep is the single most reason for crop failure.

Management After Planting

Protect a newly seeded area from grazing until plants are established. Some species establish sooner than others, but in general, plants should be well rooted before grazing to prevent pulling up the seedlings. Length of deferment from grazing varies. In exceptionally good growing conditions, deferment through one growing season may be sufficient. During periods of harsh growing conditions, however, 2 or 3 years of deferment may be necessary. Grazing during dormant periods may help improve the stand by scattering and trampling seed into the soil. After plants are established, practice good grazing management to maintain the seeded stand.

During the first year little growth may be observed with perennial forages. Some perennial grasses may show only a few small brown leaves their first dry season and be almost invisible until they resume growth the next year. Because of this, plantings should not be plowed or replanted until they have had ample time – at least 2-3 years to demonstrate success.

Newly seeded perennial grasses need to be protected from grazing until the seedlings are large enough to withstand pulling and trampling by livestock. This may require 1- 3 years. depending on weather, and other growing conditions. As a rule of thumb it is best to keep livestock off newly seeded pastures until seed heads appear. Weather it be after the first growing season or after several years.

Weed Control in Newly Planted Perennial Warm Season Grass

Weeds compete for moisture, light as well as space and nutrients. In newly planted warm season perennial grasses, weed control is required, to ensure adequate growth and stand establishment.

Early weed control begins during the fall before the initial spring planting, during seedbed preparation. Early seedbed preparation consists of deep disking and or chisel plowing, in mid November or December. Remove, all existing forage or ground cover is recommended. At this time apply and incorporate all phosphate, potash, micro- nutrients and lime as required by a soil test. Do not apply any nitrogen. Level seed bed to desired smoothness.

 Allow fall and winter rains to firm seedbed and build up subsoil moisture. As weed seed began to germinate, cultivate field very shallow, to remove newly sprouted weeds. This may be done several times before planting.

 After planting, weed control in perennial warm season grasses is best managed by shredding. Herbicide applications can injure or weakened grass seedling, so it is not recommended to spray any herbicide until stands are established, or after the first growing season

Fertilizing Newly Planted Perennial Grasses

When fertilizing a newly established perennial warm season grass. A soil test is recommended. Many people attempt to guess on what the crop needs, however they are normally unaware of what is actually needed.

During early season land preparation, (November- December) apply and incorporate all required potash, phosphate, lime and micro nutrients (Zn, FE, Cu etc.) as recommended by soil test. Incorporating these elements by deep disking will ensure that adequate nutrients are in the root zone area (6-8 inches below soil surface) and reduce losses due to leaching and washing. Fertilizing during this period will also allow time for fertilizer to go into soil solution and be readily available when required for adequate plant growth during the spring the following year.

Since initial growth of perennial grass seedlings are slow, and the main emphasis in early season growth, is root development no nitrogen fertilizer should be applied until the newly planted grass seedling are 6″ in height. At this point, a top dress application of nitrogen may be applied to stimulate top growth and yield.

Applying nitrogen fertilizer, before or at planting will create excessive weed competition, and will not be adequately utilized by desired grass seedlings. The application of excessive nitrogen at early stage of growth (seedling to 5-6 leaf stage) will only increase cost of establishment, not only in fertilizer cost but weed control cost as well.