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4. Seeding and Establishment

If sowing alfalfa-grass, it should not be planted immediately after removal of an old alfalfa stand, or alfalfa autotoxicity may damage alfalfa seedlings. Fields with residual herbicides that could damage a forage seeding must be avoided. Preparation for seeding should begin with a representative soil sample [FS-1, FS-5] taken well before seeding, to allow for adjustment of soil pH if necessary [FS-6]. Perennial grasses have relatively small seeds that require a well-prepared, fine, and firm seedbed for successful germination and establishment.

Rolling or cultipacking the soil before and after planting will result in better establishment, unless the soil is prone to crusting. Rolling will also minimize the negative effects of stones on the soil surface. No-till drills can be effectively used to establish grasses but require special attention to seed-soil contact and compaction problems. Whatever seeding method is used, sow seed ¼ to ½ inch deep, somewhat deeper on sandy soils. Shallow, poorly covered seed will desiccate. Good seed-to-soil contact will maximize chances of uniform emergence. Seeding rates are influenced by the seeding mixture, soil conditions and desired management [GIS-5].

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A well-prepared, firm seedbed is required for good seed-soil contact, note the shallow footprint in the photo.