A number of questions have been coming in regarding establishing a forage seeding.
In many places things have dried enough to work some of this fallow ground. The idea of getting a new seeding established this year is a good strategy for acres that were planned for a spring 2019 seeding or were “on deck” for a spring 2020 seeding; however, just because the field conditions are ok right now does not make this a good time to plant a seeding. July is about the worst time to try to establish a seeding.
While we have had plenty of moisture to date (and I have heard many comments along the lines of ‘what difference does a few weeks make’) the weather to date is no guarantee of what the next 4-6 weeks will have in store for us and a few weeks CAN make a big difference.
Challenges of a July seeding (the list is short but the challenges are significant)
• Adequate MOISTURE
• Weed competition (and likelihood weeds will go to seed before a killing frost)
Conversely we don’t want to be too late, the proper timing is late summer, not fall. Have fields prepared and ready to seed as soon as the calendar hits August.
While it is true that there is a risk that field conditions may be ok now and too wet for field work again by the beginning of August, that risk is marginal compared to the cost of a failed seeding.
LEAVE THE COMPANION CROP (aka OATS) IN THE BAG
Companion crops are not recommended with late summer seedings. Their growth results in significant competition to the new seeding and significantly reduces the chances of successful seeding establishment.
• Companion crop out competes the new seeding
• Fall harvest of a new seeding is not recommended no matter how good it looks
• If the weather turns wet and fall clipping of the companion crop is not feasible it is likely to suffocate the seeding during winter/spring
The above are considerations if the desire is to successfully establish a field for 2020 and beyond.
If the more pressing need is forage to harvest in 2019 then leave the alfalfa/grass/clover in the bag until spring 2020 and plan to establish a summer forage crop for harvest this fall. As we enter mid-July, there are still a few options for summer annual forages but you need to look at the cost of them compared to their expected performance given the remaining growing season left. (Editors note: I have heard from a seed sales rep that the availability of cover crop forages is very low – so if considering this you need to get your supplies soon.)
- Summer Annual Forage Options
- Late Spring: Forage considerations beyond corn
- What to do now?
- Storage strategies for over mature hay and securing extra forages
- Corn on prevented plant acres
The more time that goes by, the more spring grains become the most viable option for an “emergency” forage. Like a new seeding, early August is the best time to seed them. The most experience for this practice is with oats; however, there are reports of limited supply of oats, so considering other spring grains such as barley or wheat may be necessary. There is not as much information on these options but they can work if oat seed is not available. Also keep in mind that while “bin run” seed may be tempting there are legal issues and risk to your farm (weed seeds, seed viability) with this option.
Joe Lawrence, MS, CCA
Dairy Forage Systems Specialist
272 Morrison Hall
College of Agriculture and Life Sciences
Office 315-376-5275 | Cell 315-778-4814
firstname.lastname@example.org | cals.cornell.edu