Forage Establishment

 Knowledge Nuggets | Fact Sheets | Research Papers

Knowledge Nuggets

  • Plan one to two years ahead before seeding. Complete any major soil work such as breaking, plowing, discing and rock picking well in advance to seeding. Soil test and apply appropriate amounts of fertilizer. If possible, band in several years of phosphorous to build up levels in the lower soil profile.
  • Carry out a weed control program prior to planting the crop. Controlling perennial weeds like Canada thistle, quack grass, and dandelion prior to planting is critical for success.
  • Select forages based on soil type and climatic conditions. Select varieties that will meet your overall forage needs for hay, pasture, stockpiled grazing, silage or green manure.
  • Select seed lots based on the weed information from the Seed Test Certificate and on germination levels. Use Certified seed whenever possible to assure varietal purity. This may cost more, but the overall benefit out weighs the cost.
  • Seeding rates will depend on the type of forage, soil type, moisture availability, the desired number of plants per square foot and the type of seeder used.
  • Seed as early in the spring or summer as possible. Late summer seeded forages will not grow enough to build up nutrient reserves to over-winter.
  • Frost seeding can be used if there are wet areas that cannot be seeded during the growing season. Seeding should be done when the soil temperature approaches freezing to prevent germination until next spring. Expect slow stand establishment when frost seeding.
  • Prepare a well packed seedbed with just enough loose soil for seed coverage for good seed-to-soil contact. This will help maintain adequate moisture for germination and support the newly developed root system. When walking across a properly prepared seedbed, your footprint should not sink more than one-half inch into the soil.
  • Seeds must be covered by to inch of soil in fine textured soils and to 1 inch in sandy soils. Many stands fail because the seeds are planted too deep. Use seeding equipment that provides depth control and proper seed placement. If seed is broadcast rather than drilled in, roll it after seeding to improve seed-to-soil contact.
  • A companion crop will always compete with the forage crop for nutrients, light and moisture. This can reduce the survival rate and subsequent yield. Companion crops do aid in weed and erosion control. If a companion crop is used, seed it at half its normal rate and harvest it early as silage or green feed to limit competition.
  • Forages are slow to establish so be patient.
Fact sheets

Air Seeding Forage Crops

Alfalfa: Seed Germination, Seedling Growth, Vegetative Development

Considerations for Direct Seeding Forages

Direct Seeding with Forage Seed Crops

Effect of Soil Furrow Opener and Date of Seeding on Establishment of Forage Grasses

Establishment of Perennial Native Grass Species in the Black Soil Zone of Manitoba and Saskatchewan - available in PDF format only

Forages: Establishment - Ontario

Forage Establishment: Getting it to Grow - Saskatchewan

Forage Seed Mixture Calculator

Forage Selection and Establishment - FAQs

Forage Species for Alberta

Forage: Species

Forage Species Selection for Pasture

Frost Seeding - A Cheaper Alternative

Getting Kura Clover Established in Pastures - available in PDF format only

Improving Survival of Sod-Seeded Alfalfa

Kura Clover: A New Pasture Legume for Ontario?

Legume Seed Innoculants - available in PDF format only

Pasture Development Costs

Perennial Forage Establishment in Alberta

Rebuilding Your Land with Native Forages

Returning to Grass Roots: Hay and Pasture Establishment

Seeding Forages in the Fall - available in PDF format only

Soil fertility management for forage crops: Pre-Establishment - available in PDF format only

Soil fertility management for forage crops: Establishment - available in PDF format only

Summer Seeding Forages

Tips for Improving Forage Establishment Success - available in PDF format only

Use of Companion Crops to Establish Forages - PDF only

Weed Control in Perennial Forages - FAQs

Why Direct Seed Forages - available in PDF format

Research Papers

Ascophyllum nodosum Extract and Its Organic Fractions Stimulate Rhizobium Root Nodulation and Growth of Medicago sativa (Alfalfa) - available only as abstract

Benefits of mixing timothy with alfalfa for forage yield, nutritive value, and weed suppression in northern environments - available in PDF format

Companion crop establishment of short-lived perennial forage crops in Saskatchewan - available in PDF format only

Development of Agitators for Seeding Forages Using Air Delivery Systems - available in PDF format

Early productivity and protein content of establishing forage swards composed of combinations of native grass and legume species in mixed-grassland ecoregions - available in PDF format only

Farmer directed on-farm experimentation examining the impact of companion planting barley and oats on timothy-alfalfa establishment in central Newfoundland - available in PDF format only

Forage yield of simple and complex grass legume mixtures under two management strategies - available in PDF format

Reevaluation of row spacing/plant density of seeded pasture grasses for the semi arid prairie - available in PDF format

Seeding patterns and companion grasses affect total forage yield and components of binary red clover-grass mixtures - available in PDF format only

Sowing Method Effects on Clover Establishment into Permanent Pasture

The impact of underseeding forage mixtures on barley grain production in northern North America - available in PDF format only

Vegetative establishment of Kura Clover - available in PDF format only

Vegetative propagation of Kura Clover - a field-scale test - available in PDF format only

Let us know of more good research papers for this topic.
  For more information about the content of this document, contact Grant Lastiwka.
This document is maintained by Linda Hunt.
This information published to the web on October 27, 2003.
Last Reviewed/Revised on March 24, 2015.

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