21 July 1995

Strip seeder has a way with the tiredest pasture

Tired pasture which is inaccessible to conventional machinery can now have a facelift with a rotary strip seeder machine. Sue Rider reports

STRIP seeding is the most efficient and cost-effective way of rejuvenating tired and worn out pastures without conventional ploughing and reseeding.

It allows the improvement of grassland considered unsuitable for total reseeding because of near-surface rocks, dense matted swards, risk of poaching or erosion or where conservation demands allow only pasture renovation.

Comments come from seedsmen Hunters of Chester, which has refined a rotary strip seeder machine developed by the Scottish Agricultural College 10 years ago initially to introduce clover into hill pastures.

Upland trials by the Welsh Plant Breeding Station (now IGER) showed that, 10 weeks after sowing, the strip seeder gave grass yields three times higher than using discs or a rotovator and eight times higher than after ploughing.

"The secret is that we retain 60% of the original sward, which protects the new seeds and gives an insurance against weather difficulties," says John Hunter, who has sold the machine worldwide.

Indeed, for many years he had more success abroad than in this country, where he claims ICI almost gave conventional reseed machines away to support its herbage desiccant chemical.

Now the strip seeder is making a comeback and Mr Hunter had enquiries for strip seeding more than 200ha (500 acres) during the recent Scotgrass event, Edinburgh.

Cultivated strips are 75mm (3in) wide at 230mm (9.2in) centres and suitable for introducing clover, grass mixtures, rye and brassicas in both upland and lowland farms.

A new development is using the strip seeder to introduce wild flowers into the environment.

Barry Sheppard, from the SAC, offers the following management guidelines for successful strip seeding:

lBefore sowing correct basic deficiencies in soil fertility, improve drainage when necessary, reduce any top growth to a minimum by grazing or topping, fence the area if an open hill and allow time for any nitrogen fertiliser to have abated.

Choose the best time

lAt sowing choose the optimum time for your area. It is not a spare-time operation. In high rainfall areas spring sowing has proved most effective. In drought-prone areas mid-summer or after second-cut silage are the best times. Clover should not be sown later than the first week of August.

lSelect appropriate seed mixtures, fertilisers and pesticides.

lDo not apply nitrogen until the sown species have established, otherwise growth from the old sward will inhibit establishment.

lDo not harrow or roll, as this will encourage removed turf to re-establish.

lAfter sowing good grazing management is the key to success. Although grazing may continue during pasture renovation, it is best to remove stock for two or three days to allow the turf removed from the slots to desiccate on the surface. Stock may then be returned to keep down the original sward until the seedlings within the slots begin to show. Subsequent grazing should be when the original sward or the strip-sown grasses have achieved 50mm (2in) growth.

Once the seedlings begin to flourish within the slots it is preferable to mob stock for short periods than graze extensively, in order to prevent preferential grazing, particularly where clover is sown. &#42

Upland trials with the strip seeder showed grass yields three times higher than with discs or a rotovator and eight times higher than after ploughing.

The SACs Barry Sheppard says that after sowing good grazing management is the key to success.

Hunters refined rotary strip seeder was developed by the Scottish Agricultural College 10 years ago to introduce clover into hill pastures.