With fertilizer prices high and going higher, it is a good year to consider letting legumes add needed nitrogen to pastures.

“Adding legumes to grass pastures is always a good idea,” says Rob Kallenbach, extension forage agronomist. “Legumes improve the quality of the feed and fix free nitrogen from the air.”

Jim Gerrish, research agronomist at the MU Forage System Research Center in Linneus, Mo., says that Frost seeding works very well for all clovers and lespedeza. With this method, the seed is broadcast over the pasture sod. The freezing and thawing of the surface works the seed into the top layer of the soil. The best window of opportunity for frost seeding in northern Missouri is between Feb. 15 and March 15. “Plan clover seeding for early in the window and lespedeza for later,” says Mr. Gerrish.

For seeding from March 15 to April 15, a harrow can be used to help work the seed into the soil. A no-till drill can be used until May in regions similar to Northern Missouri.

“The most common cause of failure with the no-till drill is placing the seed to deep,” says Mr. Gerrish. “Check your work often and ensure that some seed is being left on the soil surface. If you can’t find seed behind the drill, you’re running to deep.”

Before seeding, the grass should be grazed down short to ensure the seed reaches the ground. This also weakens the grass slightly reducing vigor of the grass competing with the seeding legumes. Grazing also disturbs the thatch via hoof action, helping the seed make soil contact.

Different legumes require varying levels of fertility and soil pH to flourish. Consider soil test results and timing to determine the most suitable legume to add to your pasture this spring.