Pasture and Hay Field Renovation

Photo: Sod Drilled Boost Perennial Ryegrass


There are two basic options, a complete kill before reseeding everything, or overseeding the existing stand.  A complete kill is usually the answer when large amounts of unwanted grasses are present.  A good example would be bluegrass which typically has a lower yield than other cool season grasses.  Summer grasses can be sprayed out before they seed, but can also be managed out of a field with the proper timing of fertility and mowing.  Fertilizing in the fall and spring will help the cool season grasses like orchardgrass and fescue push out the weeds and summer grasses.  Lime supports clovers and cool season grasses over weeds and summer grasses.  Cool season grasses, don't mature as fast, have better feed values and higher yeilds than summer grasses, but having some summer grasses, like a third of a stand is not a bad thing because it can pick up the slack during the summer slump. 


Sometimes broadleaf weeds are sprayed out of a field before overseeding.  At times the dead weeds or even good grasses may need mowing.  That creates a good environment in most cases because it opens up the canopy for seedlings to get better light.  As weed roots die they will breakdown in to food units for the new seedlings, and the thatch from mowing will help hold moisture in the ground.  Thatch should not be too thick when seeding, if it is likely, cutting it down early to let most of the plant material dry out before seeding may help with seed to soil contact. 


Successful stands require the seed planted at the correct depth with good seed to soil contact followed by timely and appropriate amounts of rain fall.  For broadcast applications without conventional tillage, perennial ryegrass has the highest chance of success.  Scuffing of the ground with a drag or cut cedar will help create seed bed furrows.  Cultipacking after broadcasting will also help the seed get better soil contact.  Sod and grain drills combine these steps with a more accuracy and will work very well.  Drills can be rented from the Soil and Water Conservation offices in Buckingham  (434-983-7923) and in Charlotte county (434-542-5342) as well as Phillips Equipment, the John Deere dealer in Lynchburg (434-821-2649).  Renting a drill cost $12 per acre at the time of publish. 


Seedlings from conventional tillage can take as much as a year to anchor to the ground enough for grazing.  Drilled seed can be successful under grazing, but seems to be very secure to the ground following 2 months growth. 


Clovers can be done successfully broadcast and left on top of the ground.  Some producers choose to cultipack it, others frost seed it in February allowing the freeze and thaws to make good seed to soil contact and proper seed depth.  One of the most important issues with clover is having yhe pH high enough.  Clovers prefer a pH of 6.5.  At low pHs clover seed may not germinate and will wait many years until the conditions are ideal before breaking dormancy.  Aggressive clovers like Kopu II and Crusade can shade out new seedlings, and producers may want to establish the grass stand before seeding aggressive clover varieties.


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