Under sowing spring barley with grass is a feasible option for livestock farmers wishing to combine a tillage and forage option on ground currently in stubble, according to Teagasc’s Michael Hennessy.

“Barley should be sown out in the normal way at a seed rate 25% less than would be used if a standalone cereal crop was being considered,” he said.

“Grass should be sown out three days later. KWS Irina is a very suitable variety of spring barley for this purpose.”

The Teagasc tillage specialist pointed out that deep ploughing should be more than sufficient to knock out broadleaf weeds that had grown up through the stubble over recent weeks.

“Pre spraying the stubble with Roundup is only advisable if large infestations of scotch are visible. But, given the time of year, a maximum kill rate of only to 50% can be expected.”

Hennessy confirmed that under sown crops do not require excessive dressings of nitrogen.

“Every care should be taken to ensure that the barley remains standing. The best harvesting option is to cut the barley and under sown grass for wholecrop silage. The combination of barley grains, straw and grass makes for a very balanced forage source.

“Dry harvesting conditions will ensure that the growing sward is left undamaged. The crop should be cut initially with a mowing bar and then quickly ensiled. Making bales is another harvesting option. But an extra two to three layers of wrap will be required to ensure a good fermentation.

“The objective is to leave a clean well established sward that will grow on throughout the autumn months. Arable silages are a very valuable forage source on all livestock farms. They complement grass silages extremely well and can allow farmers to make best value of their land.”