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Spring Grassland Advice

Establishing grass

Now is the ideal time to walk grass fields and inspect the quality of pastures. Use a field indexing system such as the Barenbrug Good Grass Guide to assess fields. This uses a 1-5 index similar to how farmer’s grade stock. Five being highly productive and a score of one for fields that need immediate action to get them back into productivity It is also an ideal time to assess the content of productive grasses in the swards and plan ahead to get the field in top shape for grazing and silage. It all starts with the soil,
so for fields that haven’t been soil sampled in a while take samples for analysis and look at the results closely. pH values need to be at 6 for grass fields and closer to 6.5 for leys with clover in them. Fields with a pH of 5-5.5 will lose up to 40% of yield so this needs addressing as a priority.

Dig a soil pit to look for compaction and assess the rooting structure which should go 30cm deep in a perennial ryegrass sward. Take note of worm activity too as this is a good indicator of the overall health of the soil. Compaction can be corrected using sward lifters or subsoilers as needed and should bset to go below any pans or compaction layers. Aerators will alleviate surface compaction and also allow air to get into the soil around the rooting zone. Aerators also increase surface drainage allowing fields to dry out quicker after heavy rainfall.

For fields that have a weed grass content of 30% plus think about reintroducing proactive species to the ley. This can be done by overseeding. The field will need to be grazed low and harrowed to remove any thatch and weed grasses it will also create a tilth for the new seedlings. Use a specialist overseeding mixture that is designed to establish rapidly and boost production and one that is aggressive enough to establish alongside existing plants. If the sward is more than 70% weed grasses the field will need a complete reseed.

Choose a mix that is designed to meet then forage requirements of the field, so cutting, grazing or a dual purpose ley. A mix with heading dates that meet the needs of grazing system is key. All varieties in the NWF grass seed range have been rigorously tested under all conditions and only varieties that make it onto the recommended list are used in the NWF mixtures so you can be assured of using only the highest quality grass seed. Roll after both overseeding and reseeding as a firm seedbed is paramount to the successful establishment of new sown grass seed.

When the establishing grass has emerged and is at the 3 leaf stage (approx 10cm high) graze lightly to encourage tillering and growth. Continue light grazing at frequent intervals with your lightest stock class until the plants are well established.

The 2023 grass mixture range from NWF includes short, medium and long term leys along with the leading Champion mixture available with or without clover.nYour local NWF sales specialist will be able to provide a grass mixture leaflet or call 01829 797100.

Thanks to Barenbrug for their contribution.

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