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seeds in frost
WINTER WORK: Cold-tolerant clovers, like Frosty Berseem clover, can be used to frost-seed pastures. The freeze-thaw cycle can work seed into the ground.

Giving pastures a head start

Frost seeding offers a way to get a jump on raising spring forage.

There’s a new resource that Jerry Hall, director of research at Grassland Oregon, has started up. Called Cover Crop Corner, the idea is to offer some perspective on a range of topics related to forages. In the first 2019 installment, Hall tackles the idea of frost-seeding pastures. Grassland Oregon is a forage application company.

Hall noted that while the ground may be frozen and even covered with snow, the new year “means it is time to seriously start mapping out your spring and summer forage plan.” One tactic he recommended reviewing is dormant seeding of hay, silage and pastureland with a legume.

Suiting up in winter gear and heading to the field to do some seeding in winter may not seem like the best idea, but Hall explained that frost seeding can provide an extended growing season, higher yields and feeding quality — along with increased establishment rates and convenience.

“When a legume is frost-seeded, it is broadcast onto the frozen surface of the soil — preferably with no snow cover,” he explained. “As soil follows a freezing and thawing cycle, seed will work into the top quarter-inch of soil. Since the clover seed can germinate and start growing once weather becomes favorable, instead of having to wait until soil firms up enough to get drilling equipment into the field, frost seeding can increase establishment.”

Seed choice
Hall cautions that seed selection is important when it comes to using this tactic. Start by choosing only cold-tolerant varieties that survive in subfreezing temperatures. Red clover has been popular for frost seeding, but he added that improved plant breeding is offering more crop species choices.

For example, he cites Frosty Berseem clover, the first cold-tolerant clover on the market, as an option. “Prior to its development, the ability to capture the benefits of both frost seeding and Berseem clover into one system hasn’t been possible,” he said. “But with the ability to thrive in temperatures as low as 5 degrees F and zero snow cover, a cold-tolerant Berseem clover allows for the best of both.”

He added that Frosty Berseem clover is one of the few clovers that doesn’t cause bloat, which makes it a solid choice for livestock producers. “In a trial conducted by Mississippi State University, it produced non-bloating forage with a crude protein content of 20.5%,” he said. “In a separate trial by Pennsylvania State University, the cold-tolerant variety produced more than 4 tons of dry matter per acre in a two-cut hay system while fixing 150 pounds of nitrogen per acre.”

Regardless of the species you choose or planting method that works best for your operation, Hall advised not to put off thinking about spring forages ahead of the thaw. “With some early strategic planning and improved variety options, 2019 could be your best forage year yet,” he said.

Source: Grassland Oregon, which is solely responsible for the information provided and is wholly owned by the source. Informa Business Media and all its subsidiaries are not responsible for any of the content contained in this information asset.



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