In today’s economy, farmers and ranchers are always looking for ways to increase forage production and reduce costs. Many Southern producers rely on grass pastures as their primary livestock feed; however, those pastures are often not as productive as they could be. Interseeding PGI-33 Red Clover into a grass pasture during the winter months is an excellent way for farmers to increase next year’s forage production of grass pastures and increase animal performance and profits.
What are the advantages of planting PGI-33 Red Clover in grass pastures?
(1) Free Nitrogen: The introduction of a nitrogen-fixing legume into a grass pasture eliminates nitrogen (N) fertilizer costs associated with optimal grass production. As a legume, PGI-33 Red Clover’s nitrogen-fixing ability can provide an average of 150 lbs N per acre per year to improve grass yields.
(2) Extends Grazing Season and Improves Summer Forage Production: PGI-33 is an excellent choice for interseeding into cool-season grass pastures of tall fescue and orchardgrass. PGI-33’s long growing season can also increase forage production during the "summer slump" period associated with cool-season grass pastures, and can extend the length of the grazing season.
(3) Upright Growth: The upright growth of PGI-33 Red Clover allows it to compete better with grasses as compared to other clover species, making it an excellent choice for hay production. Although PGI-33 is most often used to improve production of haying operations, it is also well suited for rotational grazing if proper management is utilized.
(4) Improved Forage Quality: Winter plantings of PGI-33 Red Clover into grass pastures or grass hay production fields can significantly increase forage quality of the forage. Introduction of a legume into grass pastures is one of the easiest ways to improve forage quality. Also, interseeding red clover into fescue pastures has been reported as one means of reducing the risk of fescue toxicity.
Crop Establishment Basics:
Planting Dates: General fall-planting dates for Alabama are reported to be from mid-September to mid-November, with winter-planting dates of February to late-March. Dr. Don Ball (Auburn University) has reported University testing has shown red clover can be planted in Alabama in the fall or late winter (early March). Late-winter plantings have been slightly more successful in the Northern regions.
Winter Planting: When PGI-33 Red Clover is interseeded into existing grass pastures, sod suppression practices should be utilized to promote establishment. Fields can be cut or grazed short to reduce seedling competition during clover establishment and enhance seed-to-soil contact at planting. Strip spraying of herbicides or tillage can also be used to enhance establishment by reducing grass competition. Planting rate for PGI-33 is 6 to 12 lbs per acre at a ¼-inch planting depth. Seed can be drilled in or broadcast. Planting rates are slightly higher with broadcast seedings. To insure good seed-to-soil contact, a cultipacker is advised after broadcast plantings. Successful plantings have also occurred by broadcasting the seed onto existing pastures and incorporating the seed using animals to "trample" in the seed during the winter months.
Soil and Fertility Requirements: As with all red clover varieties, the optimal soil pH is 6.0-6.5. A soil test is recommended before planting and lime, phosphorous and potassium should be applied according to test recommendations. Nitrogen fertilization should be avoided since it enhances grass competition during the establishment stage.
Summary: Producers wanting to improve profits and performance of their existing grass pastures this coming year should seriously consider interseeding a legume like PGI-33 Red Clover this winter. PGI-33 is an excellent winter-hardy red clover variety well suited for use in combination with cool-season grass like tall fescue and orchardgrass. PGI-33 has an excellent track record as a high-yielding variety compared to other clover species, as well as other popular red clover varieties. PGI-33 has resistance to all the major red clover diseases, including powdery mildew and southern anthracnose, enhancing field performance.
For detailed information on how to plant and/or manage PGI-33 Red Clover, visit your local Quality Co-op or www.producerschoiceseed.com.
Don Miller is with Producer’s Choice Seed.