Successful Forage Establishment
- Planning One
Year Ahead to Improve Establishment Success
- Planning Six
Months Ahead to Improve Establishment Success
- Following Sound
Tillage and Seeding Practices:
- Properly Manage
Young Forage Seedings
Successful Forage Crop Establishment document in Adobe PDF format.
Establishment Information via the Forage
Information System (FIS)
Regardless of the
seeding date or seeding method, there are a few key agronomic principles
that should be kept in mind when attempting to establish forage crops.
- Seeding depth
and seed-to-soil contact are critical. A general rule-of thumb is that
seeds should not be seeded deeper that five times their diameter. For
most forage crops this means that seeding depth should not exceed 3/8".
Seeding deeper will reduce drastically the number of seedlings that
After planting, seeds must absorb water from the soil before they germinate.
Poor seed-to-soil contact will delay water absorption, allow seeds to
dry after absorbing water, and in general cause poor germination and
- Recommended seeding
rates are designed to compensate for normal forage seed and seedling
losses during establishment. Seeding at lower rates than recommended
can jeopardize the success of the seeding. Refer to Penn State's Agronomy
Guide for forage seeding rate recommendations.
- Legumes have the
ability to convert atmospheric nitrogen into plant nitrogen, through
a symbiotic relationship with rhizobia bacteria. In many soils, sufficient
numbers of rhizobia bacteria are already present to adequately infect
legume roots, particularly if the same legume species has been grown
in the field within the past few years. Inoculation (adding rhizobia
bacteria to the seed prior to planting) is recommended when the legume
being planted has not been grown in the field for the past three years.
Inoculation is inexpensive insurance that sufficient bacteria will be
in the soil for proper nitrogen nutrition of the legume plant. Refer
to Agronomy Facts 11, "Inoculation of Forage and Grain Legumes", for
more details on inoculation.
- Use of a nurse
crop with spring forage seedings is popular. Nurse crops can reduce
soil erosion potential and weed infestations, but they can also compete
with the forage seedlings for light, moisture, and soil nutrients. In
addition, herbicides for weed control in a small grain/forage seedling
mixture are limited (see Penn State's Agronomy Guide or product labels
for additional information). If a nurse crop is used then remember to:
1) seed nurse crop at reduced rate [e.g. one bushel of oats per acre];
2) avoid nitrogen application because it will increase nurse crop growth
and competition with forage seedlings; 3) mow the nurse crop off when
it is in the vegetative stage or harvest it early, during the milk or
early dough stage, to minimize competition with forage seedlings.
On many Pennsylvania
fields tillage is not practical because of rocks or the high potential
for soil erosion. In these fields no-till seeding is recommended. However,
in fields that will be tilled prior to forage seeding, a few guidelines
should be followed.