Rod BonshorGrassland farmers need to plan remedial field work now to prevent forage shortfalls next winter says Rod Bonshor, general manager for Oliver Seeds.
"While many farmers are quite rightly focussed on the daily tasks of feeding and eking out current forage stocks, they also need to think about how to bolster grassland productivity this spring and summer," said Bonshor.
"Around 20% of the seed purchased by farmers to sow last autumn never made it into the ground."
"Luckily, unlike cereals where there are specific winter and spring varieties, all cool temperate grasses used in UK mixtures will germinate successfully when sown from March to September in good growing weather. Drilling the seed this spring will be fine as long as it has been stored in a cool, dry place over winter."
"Many fields have suffered from prolonged flooding, damage from vehicles or poaching by livestock. Grass dies if covered by water for too long, and you don’t have to travel too far to see gateways and areas around water troughs in a mess."
"Significantly damaged areas should be over-seeded as a priority before unproductive weed grasses, like annual meadow grass and bents, take hold. Perennial weeds like docks will also take advantage if soil is left bare too long."
"Any new leys that were sown last autumn need checking for damage too. If the winter water table was high, the young grass plants are likely to be shallow rooted."
"When the cold snap came they could have been pushed out of the ground by the process of frost heave. If the land is fit to travel, the only option is to try to roll the plants back down into the soil before they die. If already dead, the affected patches will need overseeding."
"Grass leys are like a bank, if you don’t invest in them you won’t get a return. Introducing new, modern varieties this spring as full reseeds or repairing damaged areas, will produce greater yields of higher quality grass which can be used to replenish the feed-stores for next winter."
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