September 5, 2013
One look at the U.S. Drought Monitor and a closer inspection of the latest range and pasture conditions reveals that for many beef producers, the summer has been pretty dry. But should that hold up plans to seed pastures?
One University of Missouri forage specialist says no.
"When it's time to plant, drill the seed and wait for the rain. The seeds will wait. When you get rain, you'll have grass," says specialist Rob Kallenbach.
Kallenbach actually finds that rain can delay planting – and any delay in fall growth lowers chances for a strong stand of grass before winter.
Kallenbach, who works at the Forage Systems Research Center, Linneus, Mo., and Southwest Center, Mount Vernon, Mo., estimates that planting even while dry has more often than not worked for him, even since the 1980s.
"I plant every year, and have had only a couple of minor failures. That's thousands of acres," he notes.
He stresses that there are a few basic guidelines to follow, however. The first is to properly prepare the area to be planted. He advocates no-till drilling, where the seed goes into ground where all old growth and weeds were killed. He believes that reduces competition for water and nutrients, and dead residue slows soil erosion and speeds rain intake.
His second recommendation is to calibrate the drill to the right depth. Once planting starts, stop and double-check to see that seeds are planted shallow enough, he says.
"It's embarrassing to plant only five acres and find that you have planted all the seed you own. Stopping to check prevents disasters," he advises.
The last recommendation? Let nature do its work.
Two years ago, in a dry fall, Kallenbach worried himself. He'd planted the first week of September in a bone-dry field. "I didn't get rain until October. The later it got, the more worried I got," he recalls. "When late rain arrived, the grass came up. We had a fine stand."
"Any time you can get the drill in the ground, I say proceed. Mother Nature will take care of you."
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