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Action Needed to Maintain Productive Grassland
2012-08-21

The ‘catch me when you can’ forage harvesting season we’ve had has resulted in considerable damage to some fields. Unless rectified now this will cause numerous problems for next year’s production. But Barenbrug’s forage research and development manager David Long has some timely advice for livestock farmers.

This season’s forage harvesting could produce long-term problems if not addressed now.

damaged grassland

“Many grass fields have suffered severely from the very wet summer. The water-logged conditions delayed harvesting, leading to crops being much bigger than normal, which in turn meant the land didn’t dry out. So when foraging was possible many fields were cut up and severely tracked. The wet conditions also led to many grazing fields being severely poached and rutted.

“Left to their own devices or with the ruts levelled out, fields will green up, but with non-productive weed species like meadow-grass rather than the productive species sown. And the results of not repairing damage this year will show up in lack of production next year.

“Meadow grasses, which are naturally occurring in all grass swards, have a yield 50 percent less than perennial ryegrass and a response to Nitrogen of only 17 percent of ryegrass, so the normal reaction of adding more fertiliser to boost yield can be a very expensive mistake.

“It is very easy to tell meadow grass from more productive grasses; it will grow in a very fine leaf clump and if it is pulled out it will come out easily, bringing a shallow root structure with it and the base of the stems will be very thin and off-white. Conversely, productive species like ryegrass and Timothy are very difficult to pull out and will usually snap rather than bringing their roots with them. The base of a ryegrass stem usually has a reddish collar around it and Timothy has an off-white bulbous base like a young spring onion.

“Rather than let fields ‘green up’ and live with the lost yields next year, renovating a sward is a cheaper and easier alternative to a complete re-seed. To help we’ve produced a quick five steps to success guide.”

Barenbrug’s five steps to successful overseeding are:

1.    Relieve any areas of compaction by using a grassland sub-soiler or aerator and level out any ruts.

2.    Use a spring tine harrow to remove any dead stalks, thatch and shallow rooted weed grasses, make sure that the tines are working the top 1cm of the soil as this will create the seed bed for the new seeds.

3.    Broadcast a specialist over-seeding mixture like Barforage Renew or Barmix Renew at a seed rate of 25kg/ha (10 kg/acre). These mixtures use species that will establish rapidly, boost production and help to smother weeds.

4.    Roll the sward with a Cambridge roller to incorporate the seeds into the soil, or alternatively walk sheep, several times, across the reseeded area as their feet will do the same job.

5.    Ideally graze the sward tightly for a couple of weeks following overseeding to minimise the competition to the seedlings.

David concludes: “Repairing this summer’s damage now ensures production for next year and efficient use of expensive fertilisers; don’t do it and you could be wondering where next year’s production is coming from.

link August-Sown Fodder Crops Could Ease Winter Forage Shortages
link Salvage Some Decent Grass from a Difficult Season
link Failing Maize Crops Abandoned in Favour of Grass

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