The successful establishment of forage seed is dependent on many factors. The planning process, which may begin 12 to 18 months prior to planting, is critical for a successful outcome. There are many things that need addressing prior to and after planting including soil fertility, weed control, seed-bed preparation, and pest management.
There can be huge variations in the pest spectrum and pest populations over different seasons, within different regions and even different paddocks on a farm. There are generally no ‘silver bullet’ solutions associated with pest management. The best approach is to utilise a program that incorporates a number of different pest management tools, including seed treatment, contact insecticide application, slug-bait application, novel endophytes and cultivation.
In today’s intensive farming systems the length of fallow under cultivation is generally quite short, so it is good practice to apply a contact insecticide if an old pasture is being sprayed out prior to cultivation, to reduce the pest burden.
Under a no-tillage system the pest burden can be very high because the existing plant material will continue to act as a host. Good pest management practices are critical under this process. An application of contact insecticide should be applied with the last glyphosate spray to reduce adult insect populations, prior to sowing treated seed which will protect against larvae and adults that are present in the pasture or forage crop at the seedling stage. Slug bait should be applied if there is a risk of slug damage to seedlings.
Treated seed can change the flow rate of seed through a drill, so it is important to calibrate planting equipment before sowing. Trial work undertaken by PGG Wrightson Seeds has shown that the optimal sowing depth for forage seed is in the range of 10-20mm below the soil surface. Treated seed should be sown into a fine, firm and moist seedbed.
Young pastures and forage crops need to be regularly monitored during the first few weeks after sowing and if necessary an application of contact insecticide may be required if pest populations are very high.