There is still time to repair pastures badly damaged by the wet summer, but farmers need to act quickly before night-time temperatures start to plummet.
The wettest summer on record has left its mark in many grass fields and pasture repairs are badly needed on many farms.
“The rain wreaked havoc with farmers’ plans for silage making and grazing this year,” says Tim Kerridge, sales director for DLF Trifolium, the UK’s largest seed supplier.
“I have seen more poached paddocks, rutted tractor tracks and chewed-up gateways than ever before, and I know that field repair is on the agenda for many this autumn.
“Patches of bare soil are an open invitation for grass weeds such as meadow grass and broadleaved weeds such as seedling docks. Filling the gaps with productive grass plants now will protect grass quality and yields for next spring.”
Patching up badly affected areas is best done by overseeding, as it is quicker and cheaper than conventional cultivation and reseeding.
“Work pressure on most farms is massive at the moment, so rejuvenating grassland may not be top priority,” says Rod Bonshor, general manager for Oliver Seeds.
“However, those that make time to squeeze it in will really benefit next season. But the sooner the better, certainly for those in the north where the season will start shutting down very soon.
“In my experience, mid-October is the latest most farmers in the Midlands and south of there, should be trying to introduce new grass seed.”
Overseeding can be carried out by either using a wire tine grass harrow or a slot seeder/direct drill. Seed to soil contact is essential. Grazing down or taking a late cut of silage immediately beforehand is advisable. Rolling the field afterwards will also help.
If conditions allow, light grazing for eight to ten days after this with sheep will defoliate the existing sward and encourage seedling grass growth. Take the sheep off immediately new seedlings are seen to avoid physical damage.
“Overseeding always works best with large seeded varieties such as tetraploids, as these establish and grow fast, competing aggressively against the existing grasses,” says Mr Bonshor.
“Typhoon, a mixture specifically formulated for overseeding, contains mainly tetraploid and hybrid ryegrasses. For additional ‘get up and go’, these seeds can be dressed with iSeed®, a coating of nitrogen and phosphate fertiliser that provides each seed with its own nutrient source. Trials have shown 65% improvement in establishment when iSeed® is used.”
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