Where and how to sow forage crops?

Forage crops need to be sown into the drier and better soils on your farm. That was the main message from Teagasc tillage advisor John Pettit at a farm walk, held by Teagasc and Goldcrop, at John Cullen Grain in Co. Wexford this week.

“It’s extremely important that you consider the site where you’re going to drill either your brassica crops or your grass options.

It should be a free-draining site that can facilitate winter grazing or zero-grazing machinery; you’re looking at your drier and better fields.

In order to maximise the potential dry matter (DM) yield of the crop, John explained that you must choose fields which have appropriate soil pH levels and have healthy phosphorus (P) and potassium (K) levels.

“Soil pH is hugely important when growing brassica crops. Fields with low indices for P and K won’t be as productive, so that should be considered as well.”

John Pettit addressing the crowd. Pictured on the left is Teagasc director Gerry Boyle

Sowing date

Once the site is picked, action needs to be taken immediately. Realistically, Westerwolds ryegrass or Italian ryegrass needs to be in the ground at this stage or in the near future.

“In both cases (grasses and brassicas), the importance of sowing date cannot be over-emphasised. Sowing date is hugely important in terms of yield potential.

“Westerwolds seed availability is very limited at this point, so it’s not going to be an option for a huge volume of people to start with,” John explained.

Fodder rape can be sown, with good results, into the middle of August.

Seed rates are as follows:
  • Westerwolds ryegrass / Italian ryegrass – 45kg/ha;
  • Brassicas – 10kg/ha.

Drilling is advised, but some farmers may choose to direct drill. However, two runs of a disc on stubbles was advised or three where these crops are going into a field out of grass.

In order to keep costs down, it is important to try and use machinery that you have where possible. Contractor fees will add expense to the crop.

John added that stones need to be removed and fields should be rolled after sowing.