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Consider frost-seeding pastures in February and early March

Agriculture.com Staff 01/28/2008 @ 10:33am

Frost-seeding is the broadcasting of forage seed on existing pasture in late winter, with the goal of freeze-thaw cycles shallowly covering the seed.

In some years, there is an extended cycle of freeze-thaw, but fortunately, early spring rains also helps with seed coverage on bare areas.

Operating broadcast machinery on frozen or dry pasture surfaces is safer than operating on snow or under wet, slippery conditions. There is some "folk lore" that frost seeding works best when seed is broadcast on snow. I am not aware of any research that substantiates this, so operate machinery in a safe manner.

Red clover has been the most consistently successful forage species to establish using frost-seeding. 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.

Iowa producer experience has been best when legume seed is broadcast on the thinnest, least vigorous pasture areas. Success has also been improved where the previous grass stand has been heavily grazed, thus, exposing more areas of bare soil.

Successful frost-seeding also requires average or better rainfall and growing conditions. While frost-seeding is the easiest and likely the least expensive pasture seeding approach, using a drill for more precise seed placement and seeding when soil conditions are more supportive of quick germination usually provide better and more uniform stand densities.

Frost-seeding is the broadcasting of forage seed on existing pasture in late winter, with the goal of freeze-thaw cycles shallowly covering the seed.

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