Late-fall seeding may help the establishment of some but not all legumes, says Albert Kuipers of the Grey Wooded Forage Association.
At a recent tour, Kuipers told producers about trials in which legumes were direct seeded in late October 2009 into a field of barley stubble just before the ground started to freeze.
The seeding resulted in a good stand of cicer milkvetch and kura clover, said Kuipers. Both of these crops have reputations as being hard to establish. “It’s often years before you see anything really viable out there,” said Kuipers.
Kuipers and some others involved with the project came out to see the plants in the spring and could see small rows of cicer milkvetch on June 10, 2010. There was a small problem with corn spurry, which can’t be sprayed out of legumes. One of the members of the team mowed the plot instead.
The kura clover also produced a good stand when seeded in the fall. “Here we have it in rows quite nicely,” said Kuipers. “It is a little on the yellow side, but most of the yellow is from the amount of moisture that we’ve had. Being able to see these small plants in their row is a pretty good success,” he said.
Another plot test in 2001 resulted in a stand that only established itself in 2009, said Kuipers, so the appearance of a small stand of kura clover in one year can be deemed a major success.
Birdsfoot trefoil was also seeded in the plot. Unlike the other crops, it does not have the reputation of being hard to establish in the spring, said Kuipers. The plant did not grow as well as the other two crops and the rows are harder to find.
Red clover, which grows well in the region, was seeded in the same plot for comparison.
“It’s quite obvious that it doesn’t have any problem establishing at all, in the fall or the spring,” said Kuipers. Red clover was also shown to control the weeds in its section of the test plot, and the weeds were not as much of a problem in this area. “We’re hoping that by next year it will be far more competitive,” he said.
By contrast, kura clover is not very competitive with weeds in its first year. Kuipers said it was recommended that kura clover be seeded by itself the first year and add grass in the following year.
If seeding in fall, the soil temperature must be below 2 C so the seed does not germinate. The seeds are then dormant until the soil warms in the spring.
Kuipers said fall seeding can be advantageous in areas susceptible to spring flooding or peaty areas that remain wet during the summer. Fall seeding allows seedlings to get good early moisture from snowmelt. Increasing seeding rates by 20 to 30 per cent will compensate for any seeds that die over the winter.
GREY WOODED FORAGE ASSOCIATION