A relatively warm and dry winter has prompted questions from Pennsylvania producers about possibilities for planting forages in February, reports Marvin Hall, forage specialist with Penn State University Extension.
A review of literature didn’t reveal much that will likely help answer their questions. Yet Hall notes that he has seeded alfalfa in central Pennsylvania a couple of times during the first week of March. “Each time it was successful, but it seemed to take forever for the seeds to germinate,” he says. “In addition, the early March seedings didn’t yield any more than alfalfa seeded in early to mid-April.”
Seeding this early, Hall says, may be successful if the following conditions exist:
• The soil is dry enough that the disc openers don’t create sidewall compaction and the slit closes.
• The seeds can make good contact with the soil when spun onto the field.
• Mice and insects don’t eat the seeds before they germinate.
• The seeds don’t germinate immediately and then the weather becomes very cold.
• The spring isn’t as cool and wet for as long as it was last year.
“If the producer elects to seed now, then a fungicide seed treatment may help ward off spring diseases associated with cool, wet soils,” says Hall.