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Seedbeds for planting grasses and alfalfa
Forage Minute

Seedbeds for planting grasses and alfalfa

Sam Zimmerman of Ringle, Wisconsin, does field cultivating with tractor

Sam Zimmerman of Ringle, Wisconsin, does field cultivating to prepare for a seeding of alfalfa with a nurse crop of peas and oats.

Those looking to get grass or alfalfa seed into the ground this spring are doing so now. Before you fill up the drill and head out to plant, remember to prep the seedbed first!

When doing a planting of alfalfa or grass, seedbed preparation often plays a big role in germination success. Instead of just pulling into your field and planting, first get off your tractor and walk across the field. As you walk, look back at your footprints. Do you sink in more deeply than the soles of your shoes or boots? If so, your seedbed may be too soft.

Another technique is to bring to the field a seedbed testing kit. Now, most folks also call this kit a basketball, but a basketball tests seedbeds better than any other tool I know. Try to bounce the basketball in your field. It should be easy to bounce that basketball on a firm seedbed. If you can't bounce the ball easily, don't plant yet. Firm that seedbed even more with a flat harrow, a roller or maybe even irrigate.

Why so much effort for a seedbed? Well, when small seeds germinate their first roots must come into immediate contact with moisture and nutrients in the soil if those seedlings are to survive and grow rapidly. Loose seedbeds can have up to 50 percent dead airspace in the seeding zone. First roots that emerge into that dead airspace often do not live, and your stand will suffer. A firm seedbed reduces this dead airspace, which helps you get thicker stands that develop more rapidly.

Do you want better, faster developing grass and alfalfa stands with less risk of failure? A firm seedbed is your first step.

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