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Drought-damaged pastures need attention now

Agriculture.com Staff 09/15/2006 @ 10:34am

This summer's hot, dry weather has taken its toll on pastures. Hopefully, cooler weather and more seasonal rainfall during September and October will enable graziers to remediate some of the damage and restore their pastures to peak productivity.

"One of the most obvious problems that I observe is the prevalence of weeds, especially biennial bull and musk thistles, in overgrazed paddocks," says Robert Bellm, University of Illinois Extension crop systems educator. "When forage grasses stopped growing and went into summer dormancy, tap-rooted thistles became more competitive for available moisture and flourished.

"The best time to control biennial thistles and minimize problems for next year will be in late September to early October, a couple of weeks before a killing frost. Herbicide applications to the rosette stage of growth at this time should effectively remove them from the sward and eliminate potential problems next spring," he adds.

If perennial broadleaf weeds are a problem, they too are best controlled at this time because they are trying to rebuild food reserves in their roots for the upcoming winter.

Bellm says as cool-season grasses resume growth this fall, they will benefit from an application of up to 50 pounds nitrogen. This nitrogen can be applied anytime from mid-September through the end of October. An early application will help promote tillering and regrowth of drought-damaged pastures, while a later application will promote earlier green-up and forage production for the following spring.

Extremely damaged pastures may need major renovation and reseeding of grasses in some areas. In order for grass reseeding to be successful, you must provide for seed-soil contact. This can be done using a no-till drill with a small-seed attachment, or by using a zip-seeder, or by broadcasting and rolling seed into lightly tilled soil.

"Pasture productivity may also be improved by frost-seeding legumes such as red clover or ladino clover late next winter" Bellm says.

This summer's hot, dry weather has taken its toll on pastures. Hopefully, cooler weather and more seasonal rainfall during September and October will enable graziers to remediate some of the damage and restore their pastures to peak productivity.

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