Increas­ing grass­land yield through over­seed­ing and reseeding

Over the course of har­vest­ing grass­land, the sward inevitably becomes dam­aged. Over the sum­mer months, the sward also dries out in places. Patch­es form, enabling low-yield­ing grass­es and weeds to spread. The con­se­quence: loss­es in yield and qual­i­ty. Between August and Sep­tem­ber is a good time to improve grass­land and fill in gaps. There is less com­pe­ti­tion from the old sward at this time, so new grass­es have a bet­ter chance of get­ting estab­lished. Depend­ing on the type of dam­age to the grass­land, it will need to be par­tial­ly or com­plete­ly over­sown, or even reseed­ed to increase the yield in spring.

Main­tain­ing or re-estab­lish­ing grassland

Over the course of the year, restora­tive mea­sures are car­ried out on medi­um to high-inten­si­ty grass­land to main­tain a dense sward with as few weeds as pos­si­ble. As such, localised over­seed­ing is car­ried out once or more times a year. Small­er, exist­ing gaps are filled in as a pre­ven­tive mea­sure. This enables weed infes­ta­tion to be reduced and the stem den­si­ty of valu­able grass­es to be increased.

In addi­tion to localised over­seed­ing, less dam­aged fields can also be com­plete­ly over­seed­ed to achieve a stronger sward with valu­able, high-yield­ing grass­es. The over­rid­ing aim is to increase the pro­por­tion of Ger­man rye­grass. This method also requires pri­or cul­ti­va­tion (e.g. har­row­ing, mulching, mow­ing). The sward itself, how­ev­er, is not dis­turbed. This ensures that the sward is even­ly devel­oped. If the grass­land is heav­i­ly infest­ed with weeds, selec­tive weed con­trol is car­ried out before­hand. With­out over­seed­ing, a sec­ondary weed infes­ta­tion (by, for exam­ple, com­mon chich­weed, shep­herd’s purse, annu­al mead­ow­grass and rough-stalk mead­ow­grass) can often devel­op. If weeds per­sis­tent­ly pen­e­trate the gaps in the grass­land, it will need to be com­plete­ly replen­ished mul­ti­ple times.

On heav­i­ly dam­aged grass­land with a weed infes­ta­tion of over 50%, over­seed­ing is usu­al­ly insuf­fi­cient, and com­plete reseed­ing is required. This should ide­al­ly be car­ried out in autumn. Due to the high like­li­hood of rain­fall, the new­ly seed­ed grass­land has a bet­ter chance of ger­mi­nat­ing. The first growth then appears in spring, promis­ing a healthy yield and a high qual­i­ty poten­tial. In con­trast to over­seed­ing as a grass­land main­te­nance mea­sure, which is intro­duced as part of pro­duc­tion-spe­cif­ic rou­tines, reseed­ing is usu­al­ly a last resort when regen­er­a­tion and main­te­nance has been unsuc­cess­ful, or the land is being con­vert­ed from arable to grass­land. Reseed­ing requires more inten­sive cul­ti­va­tion and is asso­ci­at­ed with a longer peri­od of for­age loss dur­ing the grow­ing season.

Grassland with patches of dried out grass

Image by Couleur on Pixabay

Seed and crop selec­tion: Ger­man rye­grass, cocks­foot, mead­ow fescue

Grass­land can be over­seed­ed or reseed­ed dur­ing the grow­ing sea­son from March to Sep­tem­ber depend­ing on the loca­tion. In ear­ly autumn, after a sec­ond har­vest, the weath­er con­di­tions are usu­al­ly ide­al for over­seed­ing — the soil mois­ture and dew for­ma­tion is just right. There is also min­i­mal com­pe­ti­tion from the exist­ing sward. Over­seed­ing before mid-Sep­tem­ber allows the new­ly sown crop enough time to devel­op and be as strong as pos­si­ble going into win­ter. Over­seed­ing requires soil tem­per­a­tures of at least 10°C and some rain­fall to pro­mote ger­mi­na­tion of the grass seed. If the dam­age is min­i­mal (cov­er­ing up to 30% of the acreage), a seed quan­ti­ty of 10–15 kg/ha is required, and if the dam­age is exten­sive, 20–30 kg/ha. In con­trast, the seed­ing rate for localised over­seed­ing is 5–10 kg/ha. With reseed­ing, the seed quan­ti­ty varies between 35–100 kg/ha depend­ing on the phys­i­cal sit­u­a­tion and local conditions.

In terms of crop selec­tion, spe­cial over­seed­ing and regen­er­a­tive blends are used for over­seed­ing. These blends exclu­sive­ly con­tain fast-ger­mi­nat­ing, fast-grow­ing grass vari­eties to fill in the gaps as quick­ly as pos­si­ble. On the oth­er hand, a wider range of vari­eties is used for reseed­ing. Over­all, the grass vari­eties are select­ed in rela­tion to the local con­di­tions and farm­ing inten­si­ty. To reduce risks, farm­ers often apply a blend con­tain­ing dif­fer­ent types of grass­es from dif­fer­ent matu­ri­ty groups. In addi­tion, aspects such as dis­ease resis­tance, endurance, yield and feed qual­i­ty are tak­en into con­sid­er­a­tion. Grass­es with above-aver­age ger­mi­na­tion rates are espe­cial­ly pre­ferred for over­seed­ing. These include Ger­man rye­grass, cocks­foot and mead­ow fes­cue, among oth­ers. The best grow­ing con­di­tions for Ger­man rye­grass, one of the most promi­nent cul­ti­vat­ed grass­es, are on fresh, loamy/clayey soils on low­lands or in a mar­itime cli­mate. Cocks­foot, on the oth­er hand, grows heav­i­ly in mass­es, sprouts ear­ly, achieves good feed val­ues and prefers the grow­ing con­di­tions of nutri­ent-rich min­er­al soils and bog­gy soils in fresh, mod­er­ate­ly damp loca­tions. In con­trast, mead­ow fes­cue is one of the most promi­nent for­age grass­es with high feed val­ues, although it is not par­tic­u­lar­ly com­pet­i­tive in inten­sive grass­land that is cut four or more times in a sea­son. Mead­ow fes­cue prefers the grow­ing con­di­tions of fresh, moist min­er­al soils and bog­gy soils.

Grass­land farm­ing with 365FarmNet

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