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Successful Forage Establishment

Download the Successful Forage Crop Establishment document in Adobe PDF format.

Additional Forage Establishment Information via the Forage Information System (FIS)

Planning Six Months Ahead to Improve Establishment Success

Select Varieties. Select a variety(ies) of the forage species you expect to plant and order seed early to insure that you can obtain the best variety for your situation. Refer to the Penn State "Forage Trials Report" for disease and insect resistance, and production information about alfalfa, red clover, and grass varieties.

Adjust Soil pH and Fertility. This is also the last chance to adjust soil pH prior to seeding. Most agriculture grade limestone requires about six-months from the time of application until it effectively changes the soil pH. Consequently, adding lime to raise the soil pH within less than six months of seeding will generally result in forages being seeded into soil with a pH lower than desired.

Apply fertilizer, as recommended by the soil test, to bring soil nutrient levels to optimum or high. Many fields will have received manure applications during the previous crop so that fertilizers may not be needed. However, a $7.00 soil test can accurately measure soil nutrient levels and prevent poor forage establishment as a result of improper soil fertility. Refer to Agronomy Facts 31-A "Soil Fertility Management for Forage Crops: Pre-establishment" for more information about soil nutrient levels required for forage crop establishment.

Control Weeds. If the crop rotation permits, this is a final opportunity to control those perennial weeds that will be difficult or impossible to control once the forage is seeded. The cost of controlling weeds now should be considered an investment that will return over the life of the forage stand.