Preparing grassland for the new season

Every farmer wants to get the best possible yield and the highest possible nutritional value in the bales with the first cut of grass. Proper preparation in the months before the first cut ensures an optimal start of the grass season. 

In spring, the first treatment that needs to be done on grassland is flattening any molehills. In addition, it is advisable to lightly roll the grass that is just starting to grow, with the emphasis here being on ‘lightly’, because the grass haulm is still very sensitive at this time of year. Soil that has been compacted too firmly heats up less quickly in spring, which reduces the rate of grass growth. Any aggressive tillage in spring is strongly advised against.  So, leave the heavy-duty roller in the shed, as well as the harrow with sharply adjusted tines. Just as gentle operation with the harrow or a chain harrow is enough.  

Under-seeding in autumn or spring?

Under-seeding in spring is only necessary if the grassland has suffered heavily in winter or has been damaged by wildlife. In that case, there will be hollows or bare patches in spring. It is advisable to under-seed as early as possible, as soon as the bearing capacity of the soil permits.1 If there are no hollows or bare patches in the grass do not overseed. The existing grassland is too much competition for the young germinating grass. The best time to under-seed established grassland is autumn, as the soil temperature is higher than in spring. It is also best to wait for a good moisture content in the soil.   

No chain harrow? Then use a tine harrow.  

If a drag harrow is not used in spring, the right alternative is a tine harrow with the tines adjusted as diagonally as possible to avoid any aggressive tillage. This will treat the grass as gently as possible. The purpose of using a tine harrow is to loosen and level the surface very slightly without aggressively working and disturbing the soil.

Caring for your grass with a meadow aerator 

If there are issues with the structure of the grassland, aerating is a good option. Problems include compaction caused by heavy machines or intensive grazing. Renewing the grassland is also one of the options, but this comes at a cost. To encourage and restore good rooting of the grass and ensure good uptake and utilisation of minerals, aerating in spring is recommended. At this time, the grass roots can penetrate and grow directly into the spaces created by the aerator3. Aerating is becoming an increasingly common place component of good grassland management. It is an interesting practice because it involves a limited investment by the farmer or contractor and it can be done as soon as necessary.  

Fertilise as soon as possible 

Applying slurry early results in a higher yield of dry matter than applying late, even if a higher quantity of manure was applied at the later date4.  It is advisable to start fertilising as soon as the bearing capacity of the soil allows. Apply around 10 to 20 cubic metres of cattle slurry per hectare. If artificial fertiliser is used, the highest nitrogen utilisation and yield in the first cut is obtained with a nitrate fertiliser (e.g. CAN)5. This should be applied at a T-sum of around 300. (The ‘T-Sum’ value is the accumulated mean daily temperatures (in ° C) above zero, starting on January 1). The highest yield and utilisation of slurry is obtained if it is applied as soon as possible, provided soil conditions permit. 

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