Topics : Successful Forage Establishment
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Additional Forage Establishment Information via the Forage Information System (FIS)
Properly Manage Young Forage Seedling
From the time the seedlings emerge until they are established is frequently the period when lots of money and energy are expended attempting to correct problems that should have been corrected months before the forage crop was seeded. When it comes to successful forage establishment "an ounce of prevention is", truly, "worth a pound of cure".
Fertilization. If soil nutrient levels are optimum to high at the time of seeding, then fertilization generally should not be a concern during forage establishment. An exception would be the application of 30 to 50 lb/acre nitrogen fertilizer to spring seeded, pure grass forage crops in late summer of the seeding year if production warrants.
Control Weeds. Weed control prior to forage seeding will greatly reduce the need for weed control during forage establishment. However, if weeds are a problem during establishment then cultural practices (such as harvesting) or herbicides are available to help control them. See the Penn State Agronomy Guide for more detailed information about herbicides for use during forage establishment. The best weed control in forages is achieved by maintaining a dense healthy forage stand through proper fertilization, cutting management, and insect control.
Harvest. The goal of harvest management during forage establishment should be to facilitate the production of a healthy vigorous crop and suppress annual weeds that may be in the new seeding. Delaying the initial harvest until the forage plant has flowered will allow adequate root reserves to develop for rapid regrowth and optimum establishment. Harvesting earlier to control weeds will reduce the amount of root reserves and result in weaker plants. Slightly weaker plants must be considered against the harmful effect of weed competition on forage establishment.
Pest Control. Insect damage to grass forages during establishment is generally not a concern. However, legume forages, especially alfalfa, can be devastated by insect feeding. The primary insect of concern is the potato leafhopper which can reduce the vigor and later performance of alfalfa seedings. Proper monitoring and control, when the economic threshold has been reached, is extremely important during alfalfa establishment. See the "Pest Management Program for Alfalfa in Pennsylvania" or the Penn State Agronomy Guide for more information on the potato leafhopper or insecticides for its control.