Considerations for reseeding pastures this fall


The time is right to reseed pastures with cool-season grasses such as tall fescue and orchardgrass. Many pastures need seeding after dry conditions last fall and this spring. The current dry weather is not ideal for seeding, but hopefully rainfall will appear soon and provide an ideal environment for newly planted seedlings to emerge.

Several important steps must be taken to ensure the successful reseeding of pastures. Soil fertility is always at the top of the list, so a recent soil test can help guide decisions regarding fertilizer.

In a tight race for second, controlling the existing vegetation to ensure a successful reseeding should be at the forefront of your mind. In some situations, heavy grazing pressure until new seedlings emerge can provide adequate control of existing vegetation, yet this strategy can sometimes be risky as unforeseen rainy weather may promote excessive growth of existing vegetation. Herbicides containing the active ingredient glyphosate can also be applied to control existing vegetation. Always read and follow the label directions carefully when using herbicides.

Also, be sure to read over the seed tag before purchasing seed. Important information, including germination, pure seed, weed seed present, and the date of the last test, will be included on the tag. Pay close attention to what weed seed is present. It’s not uncommon for a little weed seed to be present due to the nature of the production of grass seed. However, some weeds can be much more difficult to control later on than others.

A common question asked by many farmers is whether they should include some wheat or rye seed when drilling new grass in the fall. As a rule of thumb, this practice can often do more harm than good. Wheat and rye both will compete against the tall fescue or orchardgrass and reduce the long-term success of the stand, just as weeds do. For that reason, it’s often best to stick to tall fescue and orchardgrass. In situations where soil erosion is at a greater risk, including a small amount of wheat or rye can be warranted, but keep in mind that there will be a tradeoff in the success of the final stand of fescue or orchardgrass.

Improve your chances of getting a good stand of grass by using a no-till drill. When set correctly, a no-till drill is your best shot at successfully seeding grass. Seed depth for tall fescue and orchardgrass should be from 1/4 inch to no more than ½ inch deep. When set at the proper depth, it’s common to see a few seedlings landing on top of the ground. If no seeds are on top of the ground, it’s likely the drill is set too deep.

For more information on fall seeding of pastures or assistance in setting up a no-till drill, contact the Adair County Cooperative Extension Service at (270) 384-2371.

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