Over seeding pastures with cool season forage species such as ryegrass or clovers is a good way to provide valuable forage during the fall, winter, and early spring. When raising animals that demand a large amount of high quality forage, planning to over seed one of these varieties can improve your land, reduce your inputs, and increase your profits too.
September and October are good months to seed many cool season forage plants. It is best to make planting plans no later than September. By planning early, a soils analysis can be completed prior to planting to determine fertilizer and lime needs. This step in the process is very important, because without knowing where your fertility needs are, how will you know which way to go. Do not overlook the importance of liming your land either, because availability of many fertilizers such as nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, and others are reduced as soil pH decreases. So, in order to maximize the benefits of fertilizer application, lime should be applied to soils when the pH falls from the optimum range of the managed crop. Also, a producer should try to find a distributor that has high quality liming material that is usually expressed as Effective Calcium Carbonate Equivalent (ECCE), which combines the materials fineness efficiency and neutralizing value. Pure calcium carbonate is given a value of 100 or 100%. Ground limestone for agricultural use can have a wide range of ECCE values, so be careful when choosing your lime sources. Always look for that ECCE %, and then you can be confident you are putting out what you are paying hard earned dollars for. Soil test results from Texas A&M University and Stephen F. Austin University provide liming recommendations based on 100% ECCE. The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) recommends that you obtain your soils test from one of these approved institutions. A soil test should be completed and any needed lime applied at least 2-3 months in advance of clover planting. It takes time for the calcium carbonate to react with the soil and begin to move that pH level, so lime early. Lime may also be needed for the health of your other cool season plants and warm season grasses. Another advantage of planning early is that you will have time to shop for the best quality seed and fertilizer at the best price.
There are many types of cool season forage plants and many ways to establish cool season pastures. The NRCS personnel can help you with information to fit your situation, as well as interpreting soil tests and write nutrient management plans. Please contact the local Austin County NRCS Field Office located at 520 South Front Street in Bellville, Texas or call 979-865-3139 X170.
Brad Kieschnick is the Austin County District Conservationist and can be reached at 979-865-3139 ext. 170.