With the weather allowing so few new forage seedings to be established in Ohio the past couple of springs it would appear this August might offer a window of opportunity. With adequate sub-soil moisture levels presently across much of the state, a couple of timely showers will insure emergence that will allow new seedings the 6 to 8 weeks of growth required before dormancy.
If it's not already been accomplished, soil samples should be pulled immediately in order that corrective lime and fertilizer applications may be made in a timely fashion. Now, before seeding, is also the time to eliminate any perennial weeds as well as the annuals that have emerged.
OSU Extension Forage Specialist Mark Sulc offers the following 10 highlights of key management steps toward successful establishment of forages in August.
1. Apply lime and fertilizer according to a soil test. Since the stand will be used for several years, ideally the soil test should have been taken within the past year.
2. Control problem perennial weeds ahead of seeding. Be careful with herbicide selection because some have residual soil activity and will harm new forage seedings if proper waiting periods are not observed. Be sure to read the labels of any herbicides being considered.
3. Plant new perennial forage stands as soon as possible in August. Seedlings require at least 6 to 8 weeks of growth after emergence to have adequate vigor for winter survival. In northern Ohio, plant during the first two weeks of August. In southern Ohio, plant by August 30. Later planting may work, but there is greater risk for failure and the stand may have lower yield potential next year. The new stand should have six to eight inches of growth before a killing frost. Slow establishing species should be planted as early as possible. Fast establishing species like red clover, alfalfa, and orchardgrass can be seeded up to the dates listed above if moisture is present. Kentucky bluegrass and timothy can actually be seeded 15 days later than the dates listed above.
4. It is risky to place seeds into dry soil - there may be just enough moisture to germinate the seed but not enough to get the seeding established. Either plant soon after a rain when soil moisture is adequate, or when a good rain system is in the forecast.
5a. No-till seedings conserve moisture and can be very successful provided weeds are controlled prior to seeding. Using no-till when herbicide-resistant weeds are present creates a very difficult situation with no effective control options, so tillage is probably a better choice in those situations. Where such weeds are not an issue, remove all straw from fields previously planted to small grains. Any remaining stubble should either be left standing, or clipped and removed. Do not leave clipped stubble in fields because it will form a dense mat that prevents good emergence.