From the Fields - Can Spring Forage Stands Still be Seeded?
by Jim Morrison
Extension Educator, Crop Systems
Rockford Extension Center, University of Illinois
Phone 815-395-5710; FAX 815-395-5726
Nature did not allow many graziers to frost seed red clover in late February-early
March. Wet conditions have prompted
several forage producers to ask about seeding.
In the recent Iowa State University Integrated
Crop Management News newsletter, Steve Barnhart, Extension forage
specialist addressed the topic of "wet spring forage planting
considerations". With some minor
modifications for Illinois, the article follows.
Can spring forage stands still successfully be planted? The short answer is – yes, into the
first ten days to two weeks of May (late-summer seedings are more successful in
southern Illinois). The end of the
spring forage planting season is limited by seedling development and growth
into the summer months. Most forage
seedlings are emerging and growing root systems
into the top one to three inches of
the seedbed during the three to four weeks following germination.
The increasingly dry and
hot soil surfaces in late May and June increase the risk that the small forage
seedlings do not establish. So, the risk
depends on rainfall and soil temperatures
from here on. If conditions turn normal or hotter and dryer
than normal, the risk of late planted forage seeding failures increases. If late May and early June conditions remain
cooler and wetter than normal, then later-than-desired spring forage seedings
may survive very well.
Planting later than
desired, adds to vulnerability to erosion and weed competition. Keep
seedings several times during the
early seedling development months to allow sunlight to reach small developing
legume and grass seedlings. Also scout
for and manage potato leafhoppers in new alfalfa seedings.
skipping spring planting and planting the new hay and pasture fields in
late-summer? The success of
late summer planted forages is set by both the planting window that provides
for a six to eight week establishment time requirement for seedlings before the
first killing freeze of the fall, and the necessity of adequate existing soil
moisture and likelihood of average or better fall rain.
For alfalfa and other
forage legumes, the seed should be planted August 10-15 for the northern third
of Illinois, August 30 to September 4 for the middle third of the state and
September 5-10 for the southern third of the state. Cool-season forage grasses can be planted 10
days or so later in each of these zones.
The risk of stand failure
is high if seed is planted in dry soil, and rainfall patterns for the remainder
of the fall season are erratic.
seed be carried over until fall or next spring?
Seed is perishable. Germination declines over extended storage
time, and declines faster if seed storage conditions are warm and in high
humidity. Certainly try to store carry-over seed in a cool, dry place. Even better, try to arrange for storage in a
more desirable seed storage facility. If
you do have concerns about the viability of carry-over forage seed, have a
germination test done before planting and adjust sowing rates to compensate for
any germination percentage losses. With inoculated legume seed, observe the
"plant-by-date" on the seed tag to ensure the Rhizobium bacteria is viable.