Pasture renovation - preparation

This is the second in a series of four articles on pasture renovation by Dr Deric Charlton.

seedbagsAny preparation?

Yes - you’d better prepare because it’s not cheap. But it’s a good investment, as you’ll get cheaper but better feed for your stock when you want it - if you plan it properly. There are several important points to consider before buying seeds for a new pasture. These are discussed below:

Plan the job well ahead
  • List your reasons for renewing a pasture.
  • Understand why you’re doing it.
  • It always pays to plan well ahead once you have decided to proceed with the seed operation - 2 weeks before sowing is usually too late!
  • Obtain the latest accurate information to help decide what pasture species, types and cultivars to include in a seeds mixture.
  • It is well worthwhile obtaining professional assistance (if you can find it) from the seed companies, seed retailers and some farm contractors.
Time your purchase
  • Decide on a seeds mixture early on in your planning.
  • Order the seed in good time.
  • Remember that newly released cultivars can be in short supply.
  • Always buy top quality certified seeds
  • Use a reliable seed retailer.
  • Always insist on certified seeds.
  • Cheap seeds are NOT a bargain - the seedlot might be full of weed seeds or poor in germination.
  • Ask for the seed certificate (P & G Certificate) for the seeds, and check it before you buy.
  • Look for its purity and germination levels.
  • Using certified seed is your only guarantee that you are buying the cultivar you want, and that it is a good quality seed line.

Buying a seedlot containing weed seeds can cause strife in the longer term, and poorly germinating seed will never produce a vigorous, productive pasture. And there’s also the cost of herbicides to take into account.

By all means consider price when you are buying seeds, but don’t let it be the main decider when making your purchase decision, just like when you’re buying cloths or other personal items! Remember - seed is not the mostly costly item in sowing pastures and forage crops, and “penny-pinching” on this will handicap the whole operation, affecting your feed supply and its quality.

Decide which species, types and cultivars you need and buy them. Remember that cheap “bargain” seeds mixtures won't perform as well, may contain potentially serious weeds, and may not persist as long in the new pasture. Also remember that a saving in seed cost is only a small saving in the total pasture renewal cost.

Seed treatment
  • Some seeds need special treatment, such as a fungicide dressing. Some legumes need inoculating with a recommended nitrogen-fixing Rhizobium strain. Ensure that this is included, and has been done before accepting delivery. This will give you FREE NITROGEN for your pasture!
  • Seed coating is now refined and beneficial. New Zealand’s seed coating companies have been leaders in this technology since the 1960s, and now offer different but effective seed treatments. These are a commonsense use of crop protection chemicals, protecting seed and seedling from pests and diseases during the establishment stage, but are thoroughly tested and cleared for environmental and user effects before they can be used commercially.
  • Brassica crops often struggle to establish unless seed is treated. Insecticide coating will control attack by springtails, a frequent cause of brassica failure. Fungicides combat “damping off” and “wirestem”.
  • Grass seeds treated with polymers add little to seed weight but carry insecticides, fungicides and growth enhancers. Though all grasses will respond to this treatment, the slower establishers, such as tall fescue and cocksfoot, will give more spectacular results.
  • Clover seed can be treated with a systemic nematicide, as well as nitrogen-fixing rhizobia and even trace elements. Again, results show marked improvement in clover establishment, boosting plant nodulation and root growth in soils infested by the microscopic nematodes.
  • Follow local advice and use treated seed (and other protection, such as slug pellets) when your supplier or consultant recommends it, because of seasonal weather conditions.
Sow the seed well
  • Unless you have experience, it pays to use a reliable drilling contractor to sow the seeds.
  • Rule One- Sow the seed at the right time of year. Some pasture species only establish well when sown into warmer soils.
  • Rule Two - Check the seed is sown at the right depth. Sow it about 1 cm below the soil surface.
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