This past year in the Ozarks was not nearly as droughty as the last two – but if producers didn’t tend to damage pastures, they may still need to reseed.
“A lot of people kind of look at it as a cost management strategy, where they don’t spend anything and they try to let the fields come back on their own, but they don’t give it the management that it needs,” Dr. John Jennings, University of Arkansas Extension agronomist, told Ozarks Farm & Neighbor. “When you defer grazing on a field that’s been damaged by drought you really need to treat it like a newly planted stand, and that means back off on the grazing pressure, and take care of the weed control and the fertility issues, to get that stand to fill back in.”
Producers who failed to take those steps may be faced with thin, weedy fields. To make a reseeding determination, they need to assess how much grass they have left in the field. Jennings said, “If they’ve got a general stand of fescue across the field, and it did make some seed this past summer, they can take care of the weeds this fall; a lot of that seed will go ahead and germinate as the fall rains come, and that will start to fill in. But they can’t keep continually grazing it; they have to back off and let those seedlings fill in, just like a newly planted stand.”
Tim Schnakenberg, a University of Missouri Extension agronomy specialist with the Stone County office, said the presence of undesirable vegetation like foxtail and purpletop may be a sign that fields need to be reestablished this fall. He told OFN, “If the stand is really poor – if you have a fescue stand, and it’s just not what it should be and not producing anymore – it might need a full-scale burndown using glyphosate; knock it down to the ground, and completely renovate again.”
If the field is just thin, producers can drill in more seed of either fescue, orchardgrass, or red or white clover to thicken the stands. This works best if the field has been grazed down really well, or it has been hayed off Schnakenberg recommended no-tilling in the seed in order to conserve moisture and soil, and conducting a soil test beforehand to determine fertility needs. In some cases, he added, “People are willing to come in with an annual like rye, wheat or triticale, and try to get some of that forage growing before the winter months, before they address the long term need of permanent forage.”
Seeding rates vary, depending on whether it’s a complete burndown or just thickening up the stand. If you’re starting from scratch, Schnakenberg recommended 15 lbs/acre for fescue and orchardgrass; if you’re adding to an existing grass stand, anything from 8-12 lbs/acre is probably beneficial. If the stand of fescue is still strong, though, drilling in winter annuals would be counterproductive, he said, “You might get a little more tonnage but the question is, are you going to get enough tonnage to justify the extra seed costs? Since these two forage types are both cool-season forages they’re going to compete, and it doesn’t always work out very well.”
If you’ve burned down an entire field of fescue, replacing it with novel endophyte fescue is an option. However, Schnakenberg said you have to make sure the toxic endophyte Kentucky 31 fescue is completely gone. “Seed residual from K-31 can last about a year,” he said, “and if you don’t address that issue, you can end up having a lot of K-31 contamination back in the stand. Also, a single spray with glyphosate may not kill all of the K-31 fescue crowns that are in the field. We really advocate what we call a ‘spray-smother-spray’ approach where you spray the old K-31 out, plant an intermediate crop to smother it a little bit, spray again and then plant, maybe a year later.” That’s not always feasible, he added, unless the producer can grow a row crop like soybeans or, preferably, corn in the interim.


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