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Forage Establishment in Mississippi: Recommended Seeding Rates, Planting Depths, and Planting Dates for Common Forage Species

Filed Under:
Publication Number: P3396

Forage production, stand persistence, and economic returns depend on proper forage establishment of pasture and hay fields. Successful forage establishment depends on proper seeding rate, planting depth, and planting date. A seeding rate that is too low can allow for more weed competition. A seeding rate that is too high will cost more than necessary and waste seed. If seed is placed too deeply, seedlings may not emerge. Shallow seeding allows the seed to dry out too soon, be moved out of place by rain, or be consumed by birds, all resulting in stand loss. Planting depth also depends on soil preparation; a seedbed that is too soft can result in deeper seed placement. In addition, the smaller the diameter of the seed, the shallower that seed should be planted.

This guide provides seeding rates, planting depths, and planting dates for common grass and legume species grown in Mississippi. Table 1 provides ranges for seeding rates and planting depths for pure stands. Lower seeding rates in the range are for species established in a prepared seedbed using a drill, while the higher seeding rates are recommended when planting in grass sod with a no-till drill or when broadcasting the seed (prepared seedbed or sod).

Information provided in Table 1 is broken down by perennial and annual cool- and warm-season species for grasses and legumes. The dates represent an acceptable range of environmental conditions across Mississippi. For northern Mississippi, early-fall and late-spring planting dates are recommended. For southern Mississippi, late-fall and early-spring planting is possible.

Recommended seeding rates for native warm-season grasses are based on pure live seed (PLS) rates. PLS is determined by multiplying the percent seed purity by the percent germination. This information is found on the seed tag if using certified seed.

 

Table 1. Mississippi forage crop establishment guidelines.

Forages

Scientific name

Lb/bushel

Approx. seed/lb

Seeding rate (lb/ac)

Planting depth (in)

Planting date

Perennial Grasses

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cool-season

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tall fescue

Schedonorus arundinaceus

25

280,000

20–25

¼–½

Sep 15–Oct 30

Warm-season

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bahiagrass

Paspalum notatum

46

273,000

15–20

½–1

Apr 15–Jul 15

Bermudagrass, seed

Cynodon dactylon

40

2,071,000

8–10

¼–½

Apr 15–Jun 30

Bermudagrass, sprigs

Cynodon dactylon

    30–40 bu

1–3

Apr 15–Jun 15

Dallisgrass

Paspalum dilatatum

14

281,000

15–20

¼–½

Mar 15–Jun 15

Johnsongrass

Sorghum halepense

28

119,000

20–25

½–1

Apr 15–Jun 30

Native grasses**

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bluestem, big

Andropogon gerardii

22

165,000

9–11

¼–½

Apr 15–Jun 30

Bluestem, little

Schizachyrium scoparium

20

260,000

5–10

0–¼

Apr 15–Jul 30

Eastern gamagrass

Tripsacum dactyloides

5

5,900

6–10

½–1

Apr 15–Jun 15

Indiangrass

Sorghastrum nutans

10

200,000

8–12

¼–½

Apr 15–Jun 30

Switchgrass

Panicum virgatum

55

280,000

5–8

¼–½

May 1–Aug 30

Annual Grasses

 

 

 

 

 

 

Warm-season

 

 

 

 

 

 

Crabgrass

Digitaria sanduinalis

25

825,000

6–8

½–1

Apr 15–Jun 15

Millet, browntop

Echinochloa esculenta

14

142,000

20–25

½–1

May 1–Jul 30

Millet, foxtail

Seratica italica

50

213,000

15–25

½–¾

May 1–Jul 30

Millet, pearl

Penisetum glucum

48

82,000

15–25

¼–½

May 1–Jul 30

Sorghum, forage

Sorghum bicolor

56

17,000

15–20

1–2

May 1–Jul 30

Sorghum x sudan

Sorghum bicolor

48

35,000

20–25

½–1

May 1–Jul 30

Sudangrass

Sorghum bicolor

40

60,000

30–40

½–1

May 1–Jul 30

Teffgrass

Eragrostis tef

40

1,300,000

8–10

0–¼

May 1–Jun 15

Cool-season

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oat

Avena sativa

32

16,000

90–120

1–2

Sep 15–Oct 30

Rye, cereal

Secale cereale

56

18,000

90–120

1–2

Sep 15–Oct 15

Ryegrass, annual

Lolium multiflorum

24

224,000

20–30

0–½

Sep 15–Oct 30

Triticale

Triticum x Secale

48

15,000

90–120

1–2

Sep 15–Oct 30

Wheat

Triticum aestivium

60

11,000

90–120

1–2

 

Perennial Legumes

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cool-season

 

 

 

 

 

 

Alfalfa

Medicago sativa

60

227,000

15–20

¼–½

Sep 15–Nov 15

Red clover

Trifolium preatense

60

272,000

8–12

¼–½

Sep 15–Oct 30

White clover

Trifolium repens

60

768,00

2–3

0–¼

Sep 15–Oct 30

Warm-season

 

 

 

 

 

 

Serecea lespedeza

Lespedeza cuneata

60

372,000

12–15

¼–½

Apr 15–May 30

Annual Legumes

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cool-season

 

 

 

 

 

 

Arrowleaf clover

Trifolium vesiculosum

60

400,000

5–10

0–½

Sep 15–Oct 30

Ball clover

Trifolium nigrescens

60

1,000,000

2–3

0–¼

Sep 15–Oct 30

Balansa clover

Trifolium michelianum

60

500,000

8–10

¼–½

Sep 15–Oct 30

Berseem clover

Trifolium alexandrium

60

207,000

15–20

¼–½

Sep 15–Oct 30

Crimson clover

Trifoluim incarnatum

60

150,000

20–25

¼–½

Sep 15–Oct 30

Persian clover

Trifoluim resupinatum

60

642,000

3–5

¼–½

Sep 15–Oct 30

Rose clover

Trifolium hirtum

60

164,000

15–20

¼–½

Sep 15–Oct 30

Vetch, hairy

Vicia villosa

60

16,000

20 -25

1–2

Sep 15–Oct 30

Winter pea, Australian

Pisum sativum

60

3,900

30–40

1–2

Sep 15–Oct 30

Warm-season

 

 

 

 

 

 

Annual lespedeza

Kummerowia stipulacea or K. striata

60

240,000

25–30

¼–½

Apr 15–Jun 30

Alyce clover

Alysicarpus vaginalis

60

301,000

15–20

¼–½

May 1–Jun 15

Cowpea

Vigna unguiculata

60

3,600

60–90

1–3

May 1–Jun 30

Lablab

Lablab purpureus

60

3,800

15–20

½–1

Apr 15–Jun 15

Soybean, forage

Glycine max

60

4,500

60–90

1–2

May 1–Jun 30

Forbs

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chicory

Cichirium intybus

60

426,000

3–4

¼–½

Apr 15–June 1

Kale

Brassica oleracea

50

104,000

3–4

¼–½

Aug 15–Oct 1

Radish

Raphanus sativus

55

50,000

3–4

¼–½

Aug 15–Oct 1

Rape

Brassica napus

50

156,000

3–4

¼–½

Aug 15–Oct 1

Turnip

Brassica rapa

55

220,000

3–6

¼–½

Aug 15–Oct 1

*Lower seeding rates in the range are for species established in a prepared seedbed using a drill, while the higher seeding rates are recommended when planting in grass sod with a no-till drill or when broadcasting the seed (prepared seedbed or sod).

**Pure live seed

 

Proper Seeding

Always use certified seed to make sure that purity and germination is optimal for establishment. When selecting a legume, make sure that it is inoculated with the proper Rhizobia species and that the inoculum is live or fresh before planting. Check the seed tag for the inoculation date; if it was more than 6 months ago, re-inoculate.

Fertilization

Fertilizer application should be based on soil test recommendations. Collect soil samples at least 6 months before planting so you will have time to make lime applications if recommended. Phosphorous (P) and potassium (K) can be applied at the time of seeding. Do not apply nitrogen at planting. It might take 7–21 days for seed to germinate (depending on species) and to develop a root system capable of nutrient uptake. During this period of time, N can be lost depending on N source and environmental conditions. Nitrogen should be applied to grasses when they have reached 1–2 inches of growth. Remember that properly inoculated legumes in ideal soil conditions will make their own N.

Establishment Methods

The two common establishment methods implemented across the state are conventional (prepared seedbed) and no-till (sod seeding). When using conventional seeding, the seedbed should be firm with uniform soil particles and no weeds. Generally, a well-prepared seedbed is firm when an adult’s heel footprint is no more than ¼-inch deep. A seedbed with excessive tillage can cause the soil to crust after planting and impede seed emergence. Sod seeding can impact seed establishment if not done properly. Clipping or chemically suppressing the existing forage is recommended to avoid competition. Sod seeding is recommended for planting annual cool-season grasses or clovers into dormant warm-season perennial pastures.

Seeding Methods

Use calibrated equipment to ensure correct seeding rates and depths. Follow equipment manufacturer calculations to determine the proper seeding rate calibration procedure. If you are using rented equipment through your co-op, Natural Resources Conservation Service, or Water Conservation Commission, always check the equipment thoroughly. When plating in a conventional tillage system, a grassland drill or grain drill will be the best option depending on slope and conditions of the field. If the drill does not have a packer wheel system, consider using a cultipacker or roller to press the seed below the soil surface. Do not mix grass and legume seed in the same hopper box because legume seed will gravitate to the bottom of the drill, which will not allow for homogeneous seed distribution and planting.

Broadcasting seed onto a prepared seedbed can be achieved by using a whirlwind or end gate seeder, but this will require higher seeding rates. Broadcasting will also require rolling and cultipacking before and after broadcasting the seed. The seed should be covered with at least ¼ inch of soil.

Another seeding method is no-till planting. This method is commonly used in warm-season perennial grasses when adding clovers or planting winter annual forages. This method works well when planting into land that is subject to erosion or when no-till practices are being used. Planting into grass sod can help to conserve soil moisture and organic matter. To avoid competition, achieve mechanical or chemical control of the sod before planting. Refer to MSU Extension Publication 1532 Mississippi Weed Control Guidelines for products that could be used to suppress existing vegetation.

 

Seeding rates, planting depths, and dates provided in this publication are only guidelines for establishing common pure stands of pasture and hay systems in Mississippi. Specific variety information can be found in the annual Forage Variety Trial bulletins.

References

Ball, D.M., C.S. Hoveland, and G.D. Lacefield. 2015. Southern Forages: Modern Concepts for Forage Crop Management (5th Ed.). International Plant Nutrition Institute: Peachtree Corners, GA.

Dillard, L., C. Chappell, and D.M. Ball. 2019. Alabama Planting Guide for Forage Grasses. Alabama Coop Ext. Serv. Pub. ANR-0149. Online at https://www.aces.edu/blog/topics/farming/alabama-planting-guide-for-forage-grasses/ (Verified 20 August 2019).

Dillard, L., C. Chappell, and D.M. Ball. 2019. Alabama Planting Guide for Forage Legumes. Alabama Coop Ext. Serv. Pub. ANR-0150. Online at https://www.aces.edu/blog/topics/farming/alabama-planting-guide-for-forage-legumes/ (Verified 20 August 2019).

Jennings, J. 2017. General Traits of Forage Grasses Grown in Arkansas. Arkansas Coop. Ext. Serv. FSA2139. Online at https://www.uaex.edu/publications/PDF/FSA-2139.pdf (Verified 20 August 2019).

Hancock, D.W. and R.R. Lee. 2018. Planting Guide to Grasses and Legumes for Forage and Wildlife in Georgia. Georgia Coop. Ext. Serv. Cir. 814. Online at https://extension.uga.edu/publications/detail.html?number=C814&title=Planting Guide to Grasses and Legumes for Forage and Wildlife in Georgia (Verified 20 August 2019).

Twidwell, E., M.W. Alison, G. Williams, and J. Simmons. 2018. Cool-season Pasture & Forage Varieties 2018-2019. Louisiana Coop. Ext. Serv. Pub. Pub. 2334. Online at https://www.lsuagcenter.com/profiles/lblack/articles/page1503499384697 (Verified 20 August 2019).


The information given here is for educational purposes only. References to commercial products, trade names, or suppliers are made with the understanding that no endorsement is implied and that no discrimination against other products or suppliers is intended.

Publication 3396 (POD-10-19)

By Dr. Rocky Lemus, Extension/Research Professor and Extension Forage Specialist, Plant and Soil Sciences, and Dr. Brett Rushing, Assistant Extension/Research Professor, Coastal Plain Experiment Station.

Copyright 2019 by Mississippi State University. All rights reserved. This publication may be copied and distributed without alteration for nonprofit educational purposes provided that credit is given to the Mississippi State University Extension Service.

Produced by Agricultural Communications.

Mississippi State University is an equal opportunity institution. Discrimination in university employment, programs, or activities based on race, color, ethnicity, sex, pregnancy, religion, national origin, disability, age, sexual orientation, genetic information, status as a U.S. veteran, or any other status protected by applicable law is prohibited. Questions about equal opportunity programs or compliance should be directed to the Office of Compliance and Integrity, 56 Morgan Avenue, P.O. 6044, Mississippi State, MS 39762, (662) 325-5839.

Extension Service of Mississippi State University, cooperating with U.S. Department of Agriculture. Published in furtherance of Acts of Congress, May 8 and June 30, 1914. GARY B. JACKSON, Director

Department: Plant and Soil Sciences

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Authors

Portrait of Dr. Rocky Lemus
Extension/Research Professor
Grazing Systems, hay production, forage fertility, forage quality and utilization, alfalfa productio
Portrait of Dr. Brett Rushing
Asst Ext/Res Prof & Fac Coord
Native grasses, forages, grazing management, conservation crops, biofuel crops

Your Extension Experts

Portrait of Dr. Rocky Lemus
Extension/Research Professor
Grazing Systems, hay production, forage fertility, forage quality and utilization, alfalfa productio
Portrait of Dr. Brett Rushing
Asst Ext/Res Prof & Fac Coord
Native grasses, forages, grazing management, conservation crops, biofuel crops

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