Madison County Soil Conservation District
Serving to Conserve Madison County's Soil & Related Natural Resources Since 1941
Madison County is not known for livestock production so it stands to reason we aren't know for our forage production. According to the 2007 Census of Agriculture Tennessee ranked 71st in the state for hay, haylage, grass silage, and greenchop with 9,244 acres, and had 14,832 acres used for pasture or grazing. Madison county's two most popular grasses are Bermuda grass and Fescue. Most growers find West Tennessee's summers too hot to support Bluegrass or Orchard Grass as stands tend to rapidly decline after two to three years. Many of the grass stands are mixed with a legume such as white or red clover, or kobe or Korean Lespedeza. Some growers are experimenting with some of the so called native warm season grasses, particularly Switchgrass and Eastern Gammon grass.
NATURAL RESOURCES CONSERVATION SERVICE
CONSERVATION PRACTICE STANDARD
pasture and hay planting
Establishing native or introduced forage species.
This practice may be applied as part of a resource management system to accomplish one or more of the following purposes:
* Establish adapted and compatible species, varieties, or cultivars.
* Improve or maintain livestock nutrition and/or health.
* Balance forage demand during low forage production periods.
* Reduce soil erosion and improve water quality.
CONDITIONS WHERE PRACTICE APPLIES
This practice may be applied on crop, hay, pasture, and other agricultural lands where forage production is feasible and desired.
General Criteria Applicable to All Purposes
Plant species and their cultivars shall be selected based on the following:
* Climatic conditions, such as annual rainfall, seasonal rainfall patterns, growing season length, humidity levels, temperature extremes, and the USDA Plant Hardiness Zones.
* Soil condition and position attributes such as pH, available water holding capacity, aspect, drainage class, fertility level, salinity, depth, flooding and ponding, and levels of toxic elements that may be present.
* Resistance to disease and insects common to the site or location.
* Compatibility with other forage species and their selected cultivar(s).
Specified seeding/plant material rates, methods of planting, and date of planting shall be consistent with documented guidance cited by the plant materials program, research institutions, or agency demonstration trials for achieving satisfactory establishment. The University of Tennessee Publication, “Field Crops Seeding Guide," PB-378, or Table 2 can be used for recommended rates and dates of planting.
Seeding rates will be calculated on a state approved method such as pure live seed (PLS) or percent germination. If the seed has low purity and germination is less than 85 percent, determine the seeding rate using the Pure Live Seed (PLS) method. See Pasture and Hay Planting (512) Fact Sheet for additional information.
Plant to proper depth ensuring seed will contact soil moisture uniformly and provide a medium that does not restrict or allow roots to become dry.
All seed and planting materials shall meet state quality standards (i.e., "Certified Seed” or “Variety Not Stated”).
Select plants that, according to state regulations, are not considered noxious species.
Fertilizer and soil amendment recommendations shall be based on results from a current University of Tennessee soil test.
Livestock shall be excluded until the plants are well established, typically a minimum of 45 days.
Additional Criteria for Improving or Maintaining Livestock Nutrition and/or Health
Establish forage species that are most capable of meeting the desired level of nutrition (quantity and quality) for the kind and class of livestock to be fed. See tables in Prescribed Grazing (528A) Technical Note TN-25.
Additional Criteria for Balancing the Forage Demand During Low Forage Production Periods
Select plants that will produce forage for use during periods when other on-farm/ranch forage does not meet livestock needs. Forage species selected shall balance or help balance the dry matter demand of the animals for the desired period of time. Generally, forage systems need improvement in late summer and through the winter. See growth curves listed in the Graze program for species options. Base species recommendations on inventory of needs and management of other species in the management unit. See Forage Suitability Group Table in Section II of the Field Office Technical Guide.
Additional Criteria for Reducing
Plants shall provide adequate ground and canopy cover, root mass, and vegetative retardance to protect against sheet and rill erosion as well as concentrated water flow.
In areas frequented by high density of animals, establish persistent species that can tolerate close grazing (i.e., common bermudagrass, tall fescue). Seed heavy use areas (feed areas, pond areas, gateways, watering facilities, etc.) using the Critical Area Planting Standard (342).
If needed, legume seed should be inoculated with the proper, viable rhizobia before planting.
Fertilizer should be appropriately placed and timed to be effective.
Coated legume seed should be seeded at the same rate as non-coated seed, and coated grass seed should be seeded at the high side of the UT PB-378 recommended rate. Planting equipment should be re-calibrated for coated seed.
Companion crops (annuals mixed with perennials) are not recommended when seeding is accomplished during the optimum seeding dates; however, if seedings are late or are on soils with an EI of 8 or greater, a low seeding rate of an annual may be beneficial. A low seeding rate of small grain would be 20 pounds or one-third bushel per acre. If foxtail millet is used, seed no more than 5 lbs. per acre as a companion crop.
Mixed species pastures with at least two functional groups (cool season grasses, warm season grasses, or legumes) and three to four well-represented forage species are generally the most productive. For a species to be considered a well represented forage species, it must make up 20 percent or more of forage composition.
Where wildlife management is an objective, use an approved habitat evaluation procedure to aid in selecting plant species and providing for other habitat requirements.
PLANS AND SPECIFICATIONS
Specifications for the establishment of pasture and hay planting shall be prepared for each site or management unit according to the Criteria described in this standard, and shall be recorded on job sheets or in narrative statements in the conservation plan. The existing cover and conditions, soil erodibility, planned seeding mixture, and seedbed preparation will affect the recommended seeding rates.
Existing Cover: When renovating an existing stand, evaluate species composition to determine if 50 percent or more of the existing species are desirable. If less than 50 percent of the existing stand is desirable species, a complete reestablishment should be done. If 70 percent or more of the existing stand is desirable species, the stand may be improved with management or renovation. The present stand should be reduced to 50 percent prior to renovation.
Soil Erodibility: On soils with erodibility indexes (EI, See Field Office Technical Guide, Section I, Erosion Prediction, Subsection C for definition) greater than 8, prepare seedbed with minimum tillage or use other erosion control methods to minimize potential erosion.
When a protective cover is needed quickly on soils with an EI greater than 15 or where seed is aerial sown, seeding rates should be increased up to two times the normal rate.
Planned Seeding Mixture: When grass and legumes are mixed, sow percentages of each grass species to equal 100 percent of the normal seeding rate. Concerning legumes, seed 40 percent of the normal seeding rate for annual lespedeza and 100 percent of normal alfalfa seeding rate with 30 percent of normal grass seeding rate. If alfalfa is only meant to be a minor component of the stand, seed the same as all other legumes. Seed a total of 70 percent of the normal legume seeding rate for all other legumes in grass mixtures.
Use a current University of Tennessee Publication “Field Crop Seeding Guide, PB 378” for pasture and hay seeding recommendations or use the following information for formulating mixtures and dates.
When cool season grasses are included in mixtures with legumes and planted at the same time, the cool season grass rates will be increased by 25 percent for fall and 50 percent for spring plantings.
When formulating mixtures, select species that are adapted to the forage suitability group and are compatible with other species in the mixture. (See Field Office Technical Guide, Section II, Forage Suitability Groups, Species Compatibility to Forage Suitability Groups,
Seedbed Preparation: The base rates will be used without adjustment when the seeding method used is likely to provide “good” seedling establishment. A good seedbed is defined by uniformly metering the seed across the field; providing a level seedbed; placing seed at the proper depth; and firming the soil around the seed to provide good soil to seed contact (seeTable 2).
When the seeding method used is likely to provide only “fair” seedling establishment due to seedbed preparation, seed metering, seed placement, or seed to soil contact, the base seeding rates are increased by 25 percent (see Table 2).
When the seedbed preparation is “poor” or when frost seeding legumes and seed-to-soil contact is likely to be poor, the base seeding rates may be increased by 50 percent.
Cool-Season Grasses and Legumes
West Tennessee and Delta - MLRA’s 131, 133, and 134
Optimum: 2/10-3/1 and
Acceptable: 2/1-4/10 and
Warm Season Grasses
West Tennessee and Delta - MLRA’s 131, 133, and 134
Optimum: 4/1-5/15 (Native Grass) and
Acceptable: 4/15-7/1 (Bermudagrass) and
4/1-7/1 (Native Grass)
Dormant: 11/20-4/1 (Eastern Gamagrass)
Seeding mixtures may be developed from the lists in Tables 1 and 2. The following are common mixtures used in Tennessee for average “fair seedbeds:"
OPERATION AND MAINTENANCE
The operator will inspect and calibrate equipment prior to use to ensure proper rate, distribution, and depth of planting material (planting too deep is a common mistake).
Restrict grazing new seedings for approximately 45 days or until plants are well established. Maintain stand by applying needed maintenance fertilizer. Manage forage height so that desirable species are not shaded out.
Growth of seedlings, clippings, or sprigs shall be monitored for water stress. Depending on the severity of drought, water stress may require reducing weeds, early harvest of any companion crops, irrigating when possible, or replanting failed stands.
Invasion by undesirable plants shall be controlled by cutting, using a selective herbicide, or by grazing management by manipulating livestock stocking rates, density, and duration of stay. For additional information on weed control, refer to the up-to-date University of Tennessee publication, “Weed Control Manual for Tennessee," PB-1580
Insects and diseases shall be controlled when an infestation threatens stand survival.
Evaluate forage stands each season or as needed to determine management inputs needed to achieve the desired purpose(s).
Subsequent management of pasture and hay plantings will be consistent with the criteria found in the Prescribed Grazing (528A) and Forage Harvest Management (511) standards and specifications (see Section IV, Tennessee Field Office Technical Guide).
Ball, D. M., C. S. Hoveland, and G. D. Lacefield, Southern Forages. 1991. Potash and Phosphate Institute, Norcross, GA.
Health, M. E., D. S. Metcalfe, R. F. Barnes. Forages, The Science of Grassland Agriculture, Third Edition. 1975. Iowa State University Press, Ames, Iowa.
Jared, J. R., W. R. Thompson. University of Tennessee. Soil Fertility Handbook.