Freezing And Thawing Action Of Winter Soil Increases Success With Frost Seeded Legumes

   For area landowners interested in adding legumes to their pasture mix, late winter or early spring is a great time to conduct overseeding operations according to Ben Polley, agronomy grad student with University of Missouri Extension.
   “Adding legumes like clovers, annual lespedeza, and alfalfa, can greatly improve the forage quality in pastures,” said Polley.
   A mixture of no more than 30 percent legumes can provide nitrogen for companion grass, lead to increases in animal average gain, calf weaning weights, and cow conception rates, and reduce overall pasture production costs.
   “If a broadleaf herbicide was applied to pastures during the last growing season, a new seeding is likely required in order for legumes to be present this upcoming growing season,” said Polley.
   February is a great time to broadcast legume seeds. The freezing/thawing action of the soil works the seeds into the ground. Legumes sown in February have a 50 percent better chance of being successful than those sown in April.
   Soil pH is important for legumes. In most cases, a pH of 6.0-7.0 is preferred. Poor performance can be expected if the pH is too low.
“If properly inoculated, legumes are capable of producing their own nitrogen. An application of nitrogen is not recommended,” said Polley.
   However, adequate levels of phosphorus are needed for stand success. Adequate potassium levels are important for stand longevity. A soil test from the local county extension office is recommended to achieve proper nutrition levels.
   “All legume seeds should be inoculated prior to planting. Your seed supplier can ensure you get the right inoculant for the legume species being planted. Without the inoculant, legumes cannot supply their own nitrogen and the stand will likely fail. Inoculating your seeds is an inexpensive way to improve your stand quality,” said Polley.
   Legume variety and seeding rates are variable and depend on the desires of the producer and conditions of the pastures. ∆
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