Be ready to frost-seed forages when soil and climatic conditions are right, advises Marvin Hall, Penn State University extension forage agronomist. While broadcasting seed on frozen ground is generally less successful than seeding in rows with a no-till drill, it can work satisfactorily if done in late winter when the soil is freezing and thawing daily and is moist. The freezing and thawing action, or honeycombing of the soil surface with ice crystals, along with rain, helps cover seed with soil and create good seed-to-soil contact. The window of time when conditions are optimal is often very narrow, so be prepared, says Hall. Early morning frost seeding, before the soil surface begins to thaw, is recommended. If the soil surface is slimy, he tells producers to wait until the next morning when the soil is frozen again.
Frost seeding works best when pasture and hay stands are thin and where the field was heavily grazed or harvested the previous fall. Red and white clover establish better via frost seeding than most other legumes, according to Hall. Other legumes and timothy can be frost seeded with slightly less success than clovers. Grasses other than timothy are difficult to establish with frost seeding because the seeds are large and fluffy.
For more information on successful forage crop establishment, visit cropsoil.psu.edu/extension/facts/agfacts49.cfm.
Source: Penn State Field Crop News.