Renovating pastures is easy in February

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By Steve Moore

One of the cheapest ways to improve pastures and hay fields is also one of the easiest.  The process we know as pasture renovation is simply adding legumes to existing cool-season grass pastures and hay fields.  

It’s inexpensive because with the addition of nitrogen fixing legumes into the field, we can save on expensive nitrogen fertilizers, and at the same time, we get a boost in both yield and quality of the forage from the field.

It can be easy if we let mother nature do a bit of the work for us.  Critical to any seeding is good seed-soil contact.  By broadcasting legume seed onto a grazed-down pasture or hay field in the month of February, the natural freeze thaw action of the soil will usually be enough to get the contact established.  The normal warming and the normal rainfall during the next few weeks is generally just right to get red and white clovers established in the pastures.  

If you haven’t already done so, now is also a good time to take soil samples to find exactly where you and your pasture/hay fields stand.  Even the best seeds of the best varieties don’t do well if things like pH or phosphorus are deficient.  Have you seen any broomsedge in your fields?  This particular plant gets competitive when other grasses and desirable species get weak. 

The reason for the weakness is usually tracked back to pH and phosphorus deficiencies.   With adequate fertility, the pasture can show improved yield, higher quality, and ironically, less weed pressure.

Contact the Henry County Extension Office at 845-2811 for further information on pasture renovation, soil sampling, and variety selection.