Sept. 3, 2010: Fall Preparation to Sodseed Pastures to Legumes

Sept. 3, 2010: Fall Preparation to Sodseed Pastures to Legumes

Sept. 3, 2010

Pastures and hay meadows provide higher quality feed and are more productive and cheaper to grow if they include good forage legumes.

With the current high fertilizer prices, it’s going to be difficult to justify fertilizing pastures next spring. Instead, try growing your own nitrogen by interseeding the existing grass pasture to legumes.

To try this, take a pasture that is relatively weed-free and makes up no more than about 15% of your total pasture acres. From now until the time that it stops fall growth, graze it hard.  This will hurt the current grass, but make room for you to interseed legumes like red clover, alfalfa, and birdsfoot trefoil into it next spring to make the pasture more nutritious.

The biggest challenge to establishing legumes into grass sod is competition by existing grass on new, slow growing seedlings. Anything you do to reduce competition and slow down grass growth will help. Overgrazing this fall prior to next spring’s sodseeding will weaken the grass and slow its spring growth, thus giving new legume seedlings a better chance to get started.

Fall is also a good time to collect soil samples, have them analyzed, and apply any recommended fertilizer. Legumes especially need good phosphorus and soil pH.

Bruce Anderson
Extension Forage Specialist