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Now the ideal planting time to establish pasture

August 26, 2003

The period from late summer into early fall in Kentucky is the best time to establish the major cool season grasses such as orchardgrass, tall fescue, timothy, and bluegrass for pasture or hay. These four grasses are our pasture mainstays, making up 95 percent of the acreage.

Many years of research results show this late summer through early fall time frame is the best opportunity for successful establishment. Mother Nature had a hand in this time frame because seed produced in late spring remains dormant until late-summer and early-fall rainfall provides the moisture necessary for the seed to germinate.

To increase your success rate, remember these points:

n First, address soil fertility needs. Take soil samples now to determine fertility needs and to give you enough time to supply the needed nutrients. Inadequate levels of phosphorous, potassium, or limestone can limit the success of late summer seedings. For pure grass stands, apply nitrogen at the rate of 40 to 60 pounds per acre.

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n Second, control competition. Late summer seedings most often fail from competition and lack of water. When you control existing vegetation with herbicides or tillage, the emerging seedlings will have access to whatever water and nutrients are present without having to compete with weeds.

To maximize the success of seedings, use a burn-down herbicide to kill annual weeds. Translocated herbicides can be used where labeled to kill or suppress perennials such as johnsongrass.

Remember to wait two to three weeks after spraying translocated herbicides before you plant in no-till situations. This will allow time for killed weeds to dry out and for residual effects of the herbicide to decay.

n Third, select high quality seed of an adapted variety. Planting high quality seed is an essential step toward establishment and longevity of a pasture. These seeds have high percentages of germination, low percentages of weed seed, and freedom from noxious weed seed.

Certified seed meets or exceeds minimum standards for purity, germination and quality. This seed has a blue tab attached to the bag.

The certified seed should be from an "improved" variety adapted to your farm. "Improved" means the variety has been selected for improved yield, quality, persistence, disease resistance, or other positive traits.

Varieties greatly differ in yield, persistence, disease resistance, and cost. Expensive varieties aren't necessarily good, and the cheaper ones aren't necessarily bad.

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