Grass after maize could boost much needed forage stocks
In a year where forage shortages are a major concern, it is important to utilise every acre to maximise forage opportunities and minimise the reliance on costly bought in feed. With an expected early maize harvest, there is the potential for producers to reseed rather than keeping the ground out of production until next spring which could bolster forage stocks.
Maize is a costly crop to grow requiring a heavy input of N, P and K. It typically requires between 50-150kg N/ha, 110- 235kg P/ha and 20-115kg K/ha, compared to grass which only requires around 30-60kg N/ha. With early maturing maize varieties such as Reason expected to be harvested up to two weeks sooner than usual, there is the opportunity to get a grass crop in the ground, which can make the most of the remaining nutrients.
While there are situations when it wouldn’t be suitable to plant ryegrass, such as when the current maize crop has been sprayed with nicosulfuron, there are other options including winter rye which could provide forage within a short time frame.
Grass as a catch crop
In any situation, producers should avoid leaving maize stubble exposed after harvest. The site can experience significant nutrient losses from leaching during poor weather conditions, leading to soil erosion. Reseeding with a grass ley will provide long lasting benefits, including utilising the existing nutrients in the soil.
Short-term grasses such as Westerwold or Italian Ryegrass can provide an early bite at the start of spring, or alternatively, can off er a quality first-cut silage. These grasses are vigorous and extremely quick to establish, even at lower temperatures of 3˚C. This enables the ley to get going before the winter period leading to earlier spring growth. While only short-term these species are very productive which means that weather permitting, growers will be able to take a high yielding and excellent quality cut of silage before preparing the field for the next crop.
Keeping the ley down for two years? If you are not 100 % sure of your rotation then use Tower. It is a two-year ley made up of 100% Italian Ryegrass which is quick to establish and produces a bulky silage. It is a good quality high yielding crop which is winter hardy and again will establish at 3 degrees rather than the standard 5 degrees, which is the case for many other grasses.
If we have a warm and moist autumn, then Tower will grow quickly and could provide either late grazing this season or early spring grazing and first cuts. However, this is weather dependent, and despite the shortage of grazing this year, farmers need to avoid poaching as this can cause long-term damage.
After maize harvest grass reseeding is simple, as little working down is required. One pass with the discs to ensure a fine and firm seedbed is usually sufficient prior to drilling.
If reseeding with a long-term ley, it is important to remove weeds before establishment, during which time it is possible to achieve 100% weed control. For short-term mixtures however, the grass will establish at a quicker rate than any weeds, so herbicide applications won’t be required.
Home-grown forage will always be the cheapest feed available and while conditions during the growing season have been unprecedented this year, there are still potential options to bolster forage this year and in preparation for next year.
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Grass & Root Seed Product Manager