29 March 1996

Get establishment right…

GRASS seed establishment in spring needs care to ensure the plants have a chance for commonly only 15% of the seeds grow into plants.

This is the message of Scottish Agricultural College head of agronomy Charlie Mackie, Craibstone, Aberdeen. He says: "Grass seed prices have increased but seed is still a small proportion of the cost of re-seeding. Still choose the best grass varieties."

He recommends selecting mixtures from companies that support NIAB or SAC testing for these have good variety information.

He also suggests drilling seed in preference to broadcasting, and ensuring the drill is set correctly so seed is covered. For spring grass reseeds undersown in spring barley crops, grass must be sown within a day or two of spring barley and at a slightly different angle, he advises.

Seed-beds should be firm and fine and rolled after drilling. Apply P and K fertiliser specifically for grass seed when that for the barley is combine drilled and may be too deep for the grass.

Evidence from the Hillsborough Research Institute, Northern Ireland, shows that high merit dairy cows demand a different type of sward to their low merit contemporaries. It must be taller, denser and, ideally, disease-free.

On the basis of these findings, Cheshire-based co-op Deeside Dairy Farmers has reformulated its grass seed mixes to provide good disease resistance and ground cover.The intermediate leading variety Merlinda is not included. Although it is an excellent spring producer and, as a tetraploid, boosts soluble carbohydrate levels for silaging, it is difficult to control in mid-season. The variety has also been withdrawn from the national lists due to its susceptibility to crown rust.

The short-term number one mix boasts high levels of soluble carbohydrates for silage production (see table). The early perennial ryegrass varieties that complete the mix offer similar heading dates for an early bite or cut.

Its three- to four-year ley is mainly for cutting but can also be grazed. It includes tetraploids for palatability. AberElan shows very high yields especially under grazing management, and good spring and autumn growth. Seed rate of all mixes is set higher than average to ensure good ground cover.


&#8226 Drainage: Essential to encourage sound root system and avoid sod pulling.

&#8226 Liming: Check soil requirement by analysis. Aim for pH 6.

&#8226 Fertiliser: Use seedbed compound fertiliser according to analysis for example 3 x 50kg/acre of 15:15:15 compound.

&#8226 Seed-bed: Ensure free from weeds and fine and firm. Use Cambridge roller for drilling and again after sowing.

&#8226 Management: Early grazing, preferably by sheep, should be tight to encourage ground cover.


Short-term ley mix (15kg/acre)

3kg Tribune (Italian)High yields; high D-value; ground cover;

high sugars.

3kg Roberta (Italian*)High yields; good spring growth; highsugars; moderate disease resistance.

3kg Bartissimo (Italian)High yields; good ground cover; highsugars; moderate disease resistance.

3kg Anaconda (Early PRG*)High yields; good spring growth and winterhardiness.

3kg Yatsyn 1 (Early PRG)Very high yields and good diseaseresistance.

*Tetraploid

The foundation of a productive grass sward depends on its seeding year.