Across the whole of the UK 2013 proved to be a much kinder year than 2012, with a much dryer summer and still to date a very mild but very wet winter.
Wales, the South West of England and along the Thames Valley has taken the brunt of the rainfall in the last three months. It’s the potential damage caused by this record wet winter which needs to be addressed to get the best out of your grass fields in 2014.
Any fields that have been winter grazed by sheep or cattle, should be checked for surface and shallow compaction.
This is best done by digging a number of shallow test pits across the field and seeing how far the water
and the grass roots have penetrated. If the soil is dry and rooting is limited below 10cm, then you have a pan caused by the grazing sheep tramping about on very wet soil.
The solution is to use a sward lifter, which will remove the pan, allow the water
to drain away and air into the soil to promote healthy root growth down to 25cm which will give the maximum production this summer.
If you don’t remove the pan the productive grasses will slowly starve to death as their reduced root structure will be unable to support the growth potential and the gaps will be filled with shallow rooted, lower yielding, poor quality weed grasses like meadow grass and Yorkshire Fog.
In fields that have not been winter grazed, the treatment will depend on spring growth.
Due to the mild winter, the grass in many areas has grown slowly all winter, with a build-up of cover. Spring treatment will depend on the weather, in mild areas it will just be a case of timing the first cut to match the plants growth, and taking it at the optimum combination of yield and quality for your needs.
Be prepared to cut a couple of weeks early, rather than judging first cut by the calendar. N, P & K levels should be checked as nutrient reserves could have been affected by the record amounts of rainfall leaching vital nutrients through the soil.
Those in upland areas that have experienced any hard weather and particularly hard frost on soft winter growth, check to see what damage has been done, prolonged frost or snow cover can produce high levels of dead and diseased leaf, which is not ideal for silage making and should be removed by spring grazing before shutting the field up for silage production.