ESTABLISHING FORAGES

1. CHOOSE THE RIGHT CROP

 Find the correct forage species for your purpose and local conditions. For the best economic return, choose varieties that yield well for three to four years. For a long term stand, select good winter hardiness and disease resistance. 

2. PREPARE THE SEED

Some forage crops, such as alfalfa or cicer milk vetch have hard seeds with waxy layers. These seeds do not absorb water well, and therefore must be scarified before planting. To be effective, legume seeds should be inoculated with nitrogen-fixing bacteria. This will produce healthier plants.

3. SEED EARLY

The earlier you seed in spring, the better the stand. If forage is seeded early, you can average three tons of alfalfa in the first year. 

4. SEED PURE FORAGE STANDS

Don’t plant cereal or canola as a companion crop. These vigorously compete with forage crops for nutrients, water, and sunlight. This is particularly important in the southern and central prairies where moisture is frequently the key limiting factor to forage stand establishment.

5. SEED SHALLOW

Forage seeds are small and should be planted 1/4 to 1/2 an inch deep. On irrigated land, the seedbed should be irrigated three to four days before seeding. On dry land, seed the field, then cover and pack the seed as well.

6. MOW THE CROP FOR WEED CONTROL

When the seedlings are about 1ft high, mow the forage crop. This reduces competition from weeds and can help the crop to stool out and quickly cover the ground. If weeds are mowed, herbicides should be unnecessary.