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Cattle on late-summer pasture Chris Torres
KEEP PASTURES PLENTIFUL: Late-summer forage seedings are best to ensure you have a good pasture for later in the fall and into next year.

4 considerations for renovating pastures, hayfields

Now is a good time to look at the condition of your pastures and hayfields for fall grazing.

Now is the time to evaluate the condition of your pastures and hayfields and decide on a plan of action to keep them producing the desired quantities of high-quality forages.

The Penn State Agronomy Guide states that late-summer (mid-August to early September) forage seedings in Pennsylvania — earlier in New York state, later in areas south — are generally the most successful. That’s because the cool evenings and early fall rains provide an ideal environment for grasses.

In addition to establishing new grass and legume fields, make sure you look at and evaluate established pastures and hayfields.

Overseeding vs. total renovation

One popular practice is no-till renovation of existing fields and pastures. A well-maintained no-till drill can attain the proper depth and seeding rates for all common forage grasses and legumes.

Renovation can be as simple as overseeding overgrazed areas and areas where broadleaves have invaded to total renovation where a glyphosate treatment is often used to kill all existing species followed by reseeding with desired species.

Some advantages of no-till establishment and renovation are erosion control, time and labor savings, and ease of establishment.

Soil fertility

Fertility management is a key factor whether you’re preparing an existing field for winter or are renovating a field.

Soil testing, and applying lime, nitrogen, phosphorus and potash as indicated on that soil test will increase growth, recovery rates and winter hardiness. One ton of dry grass hay contains approximately 40 pounds nitrogen., 13 pounds phosphorus and 60 pounds potash. Fall is an excellent time to replace these nutrients.

Manure is also a very good fertility source and can be applied as a top-dress before or after no-till seeding. Liming to reduce soil acidity also increases nutrient availability, which increases the competitiveness of desired species and is an excellent source of calcium and magnesium.

In long-term hay and pasture fields watch for surface acidity by taking a shallow (2 inches) soil test in addition to the standard 8-inch sample.

Species selection

Select a species adapted to your soil types and management practices. Also, consider your end use, intended markets, desired yield and quality.

Improved varieties will make a difference in situations where disease has been a problem and high productivity is sought. Consider planting mixed species where you have variable soils. Most seed companies have premixes for specific situations and conditions.

See this guide for legumes, grasses and brassicas that could work on your operation.

Weed control

Clipping pastures before overseeding or total renovation will help with weed control and allow increased light penetration to aid in the germination and growth of the new seedlings.

Clipping and removing excess fodder in conjunction with fertilizing will help thicken up existing stands and speed establishment of new seedings. Chemical control of existing weeds prior to overseeding can be tricky, as products such as 2,4-D and dicamba, which control broadleaves, have a 30-day planting delay after application. However, they are two of the most used products in grass hayfields and pastures prior to overseeding.

Glyphosate is generally the product of choice when doing a total renovation. Glyphosate is non-selective, highly effective and you can reseed immediately after application.

Source: Penn State Cooperative Extension, 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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