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Champlain Valley Crops, Soils & Pastures – BLOG PAGE

Frost Seeding: Simple, But Not Foolproof

Posted: November 12th, 2012 by Champlain Valley Crop, Soil and Pasture Team

by Rico Balzano, UVM Extension Agronomy Outreach Professional

Frost seeding can be an efficient and cost effective way to reseed or introduce new forage species to pastures and hay meadows. Successful frost seeding can improve forage quality, and research in Michigan has shown yield increases by 1.5-2.0 tons of dry matter per acre. That is a pretty good return on the cost the cost of the seed and the time to broadcast it. However, frost seeding is not right for every situation and not every year presents the ideal conditions. The basic idea behind frost seeding is the freeze-thaw cycle and rain of early spring will help incorporate seed broadcast over the surface. It is a simple process, but timing is critical: seed too early and seed may die, seed too late and there is no frost to do the work. Frost seeding can be accomplished with broadcast spreaders that mount onto ATVs or tractor 3-point hitches.  Roller seeders are also very effective but will require more passes across the field. This can be done over minimal snow cover, but broadcasting over deeper snow before a rapid melting can result in losing seed to runoff.  In Vermont, most frost seeding happens in late February or March. But now is the time to start planning.

Site Selection- Choose where you frost seed carefully. Pastures and hay meadows that are predominately sod-forming grasses, such as bluegrass or reed canary grass, can have a thick thatch barrier that can make seed establishment difficult. Grazing livestock “stomping” the seed in can be worth a try in these situations. Also, soil type is important. Soils that have natural moisture through the early summer, such as loam and clay soil, work best for frost seeding. Sandy soils should be avoided.

Soil Test, Lime, and Fertilizer- If possible, apply any needed lime a year in advance. Nitrogen should be avoided the year before and the year of seeding. This only stimulates grasses and weeds making them too competitive. Legumes need phosphorus and potassium, however, to compete with grasses.

Preparing the fall before seeding- Seed to soil contact is critical for frost seeding to work. Grazing or clipping pastures and hay meadows down to about 2” the previous fall or winter opens the canopy and allows broadcast seed to reach the soil. Grazing tightly will also reduce the vigor of the existing forages the following spring, helping the new seedlings to better compete.  In some cases, lightly disturbing the soil with a disk the fall before frost seeding can help increase success.

Seed Selection, Legumes: Alfalfa, clover, and trefoil can all be successfully frost seeded. Alfalfa should be frost-seeded on well drained soils with near neutral pH and adequate levels of phosphorus and potassium. Avoid fields where alfalfa already exists.  Autotoxicity will prevent new alfalfa plants from becoming established. Clovers have better success on poorly drained and with less lime and fertilizer. Red clover establishes quickly and produces for one or two years, while white clovers can last three years or more. Although birdsfoot trefoil is slow to establish, it is long lived, improves with time, and can become the dominant legume as red clover dies out. Be sure to inoculate all legume seed.

Seed Selection, Grasses: Older alfalfa stands that have become less productive can sometimes benefit from grasses being introduced. This can be challenging because most grasses tend not to be as successful as legumes when frost seeded. Research from the University of Wisconsin has shown that perennial ryegrass and orchardgrass have the best success in years when moisture is adequate for growth. However, perennial ryegrass is not as winter hardy as other cool season grasses so persistence may be a problem.

Seed Mixtures: In many cases, seeding more than one species can be advantageous. For example, red clover and birdsfoot trefoil seeded together can ensure a long-term legume presence in a pasture. In research done at Iowa State, red clover established quickly and was productive for two years before declining, while birdsfoot trefoil became productive in the second and following years. For this reason, many producers frost seed red clover every two to three years to maintain legume production. Also, especially when seeding mixes using broadcast type seeders, be sure to determine the spreading width. Different species and mixes will vary. For example, legume seed tends to “throw” further than grass seed. Therefore it is recommended to separate grass and legume seed and spread them in two passes.

Grazing management after seeding:  Establishment of legumes depends on control of grasses and weeds, especially in the first two to three months after emergence. Immediately after seeding, but before emergence, animals can be used to control early spring growth. Hoof action will assist the freeze-thaw cycle to incorporate seed. Cattle should be removed before emergence to prevent seedling damage.  After legume emergence, moderate but quick grazing, not shorter than 3-4”, after the grass starts growing will give legume seedlings a chance. Periodic mowing, or an early hay cut, may be necessary to control grasses and weeds. If possible, birdsfoot trefoil will benefit from an early fall rest period.

Recommended Rates for Frost Seeding into Existing Sod (U. of Wisconsin)

Rate (lb./acre)

Expected Establishment

Plants per Square ft.

Species

Seeded Alone

In Mixture

Red Clover

4-8

3-4

2-5

Ladino Clover

2-3

1-2

1-2

Birdsfoot Trefoil

4-6

2-3

6-9 (in 2nd year)

Alfalfa

5-8

3-4

4-6

Perennial Ryegrass

8-15

2-3

10-12

Orchardgrass

3-4

3-4

4

 

Stand Density of Two Forage Legume Following Frost Seeding (Michigan State U.)

Red Clover

Trefoil

————————————–Months after seeding———————————-

3

15

3

15

Established plants as % of herbicide treated stand

0 cuts

69

51

74

52

2 cuts

79

82

88

96

4 cuts

103

107

117

114

Herbicide

100

100

100

100

 

Additional Information and links:

http://pss.uvm.edu/vtcrops/?Page=articles/PastureProduction.html
http://www.uwex.edu/ces/crops/frostsd.htm
http://www.extension.iastate.edu/Publications/PM856.pdf
http://www.msue.msu.edu/objects/content_revision/download.cfm/revision_id.283375/workspace_id.108285/Frost%20Seeding%20Guidelines.pdf/

Working Together for Clean Water | Women’s Agricultural Network Blog

Posted: November 7th, 2012 by Kirsten Workman

One of the members of the Champlain Valley Crop, Soil & Pasture team was a guest blogger on the Women’s Agriculture Network (WAgN) blog.

Check it out!

Working Together for Clean Water | Women’s Agricultural Network Blog.

Grazing Road Trip

Posted: November 5th, 2012 by Champlain Valley Crop, Soil and Pasture Team

 

UVM Extension Grazing Specialists Kim Hagen and Cheryl Cesario (taking the picture) spent the day last week with Willie Gibson of NOFA-VT and grazing expert Darrell Emmick from NY state. The group visited an organic dairy farm in East Montpelier and a grass-fed beef operation in Waitsfield. They spent a whirlwind day discussing topics such as large herd grazing planning, forage quality and quantity, and reclaiming pasture land.

In the Press: UVM tests aerial planting of cover crops

Posted: October 18th, 2012 by Champlain Valley Crop, Soil and Pasture Team

Read this article in VT Digger about our Aerial Cover Crop project.

UVM tests aerial planting of cover crops.

New Grazing Guide From UVM Extension

Posted: October 11th, 2012 by Champlain Valley Crop, Soil and Pasture Team

Managing Pasture as a Crop – A Guide to Good Grazing, written by Darrell Emmick while on staff at UVM Extension in Middlebury is now available. The 80 page book is a great read for livestock farmers who want to learn more about getting the best from their land.

Check it out HERE Managing Pasture as a Crop

Managing Pasture as a Crop

A Guide to Good Grazing, by Darrell L. Emmick, Ph.D.

Top Grazing Mistakes (and how to avoid them)

Posted: October 10th, 2012 by Cheryl Cesario

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
The Northeast Organic Dairy Producers Alliance (NODPA) annual field days recently took place in Brattleboro and while this event is a chance for organic dairy producers across the region to get together, many of the topics presented are relevant for any grazing dairy producer, organic or not. One of the great workshops was ‘Top Grazing Mistakes’ presented by three grazing experts – Sarah Flack, organic consultant; Dr. Cindy Daly,  California State University; and Kathy Soder, USDA Agricultural Research Station in Pennsylvania. This is a brief excerpt. A complete article from this workshop can be found by clicking HERE. 

What are some common mistakes made by dairy grazers?

  • Inadequately designed system/infrastructure (incorrectly sized paddocks, too few or too many acres, poor grounding for fencing, poor quality land used for grazing)
  • Pasture nutrition problems (overfeeding protein in the barn and lack of forage quality in the pasture)
  • Less than ideal grazing management (resulting in overgrazing damage, soil erosion, an increase in weeds, less productive plants, and internal parasite issues)

At this time of the year it is important that pasture plants go into winter with enough energy reserve for next spring. Remember that the plant height you see above the ground is an indicator of the root length below the ground. Sending plants into dormancy with 1 inch of overall height does not give them much energy storage for survival, as these reserves are generally stored in the first 2-4 inches of the plant base. Overtime this can result in weakened plants that die out and decrease the overall density and quality of the pasture. Keeping a higher residual height will allow plants to store more energy and get a robust start in the spring.

 

So what are some of the practices at this time of the year that can result in overgrazing damage?

  • Removing the interior fences and letting cows ‘clean up’ the pastures.
  • Letting animals graze the same pasture for more than 3 days.
  • Returning animals to a pasture before all the plants have regrown. At this time of year, that period is approximately 40 days.
  • Not adding additional acreage into the grazing rotation when plant growth rates slow down.
  • Using follower groups that graze close and do not leave enough plant residue.

If you have found yourself doing any of the above, don’t despair! Now is the time to identify any issues and formulate a plan for next year to ensure that pastures remain healthy and productive all season long.

Drilling Cover Crops into Vegetable Fields

Posted: October 2nd, 2012 by Champlain Valley Crop, Soil and Pasture Team

Drilling Cover Crops into Vegetable Fields.

Check out this photo album on our facebook page of The Farm at VYCC using one of our No Till Drills to plant winter rye cover crops into their veggie fields.

Winter Triticale Forage

Posted: September 28th, 2012 by Champlain Valley Crop, Soil and Pasture Team

Trying to decide on a cover crop this fall?  Thinking about trying to get a double crop by harvesting it for forage in the spring?  Have you thought about Winter Triticale??

Cornell Extension Agronomy Fact Sheet: Winter Triticale Forage
factsheet56.pdf (application/pdf Object).

Aiming for Higher Profits | University of Vermont Extension Agronomators

Posted: September 27th, 2012 by Champlain Valley Crop, Soil and Pasture Team

Aiming for Higher Profits | University of Vermont Extension Agronomators.

Champlain Valley Crops, Soil & Pasture Team : University of Vermont

Posted: September 27th, 2012 by Champlain Valley Crop, Soil and Pasture Team

Champlain Valley Crops, Soil & Pasture Team : University of Vermont.

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