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Reseeding - Getting it right


The main advantage of reseeding grassland is it increases both the quantity and quality of grass grown, by somewhere in the region of 20- 40%, mostly in spring and autumn. At the cost it must be done right. Michael Donoghue, Dairy Advisor, Teagasc Tuam, covers all of the additional benefits here

Estimates vary but new reseeds should grow in the region of 20- 40% more grass and importantly a lot of this extra growth will occur in the spring and autumn. Increased animal performance, improved responsiveness to nitrogen and a great opportunity to tackle weeds are all important additional benefits. However at roughly €380/ acre it represents a significant investment, while also been without the field for between 6 - 10 weeks. Thus the importance of a successful reseed is vital. 

Timing

In general the rule is, the earlier in the growing season reseeding is done the better. The reason for this is that post seeding management, grazing off the sward and post spraying, can be difficult once we get into later into the year. However more importantly if as is probable clover establishment is important, reseeding must be completed in April, May or at the latest early June. This is to ensure the reseed can be grazed 3 or 4 times at low covers to ensure light gets to the base of the sward and the clover can establish. Thus if clover is important to you get the Ph. right and address any weed issues this year and leave reseeding till next year because now to too late for successful clover establishment. 

Drainage

Before spending money on reseeding any drainage issues have to be addressed first. Drains should be cleaned and if shores are required they should be installed. Ploughing can help with drainage and levelling badly damaged fields but be aware the “good soil” with the high fertility is being buried and this make take some years to be built back up again. 

Spraying

A young grass/ clover plant is not very strong and will struggle badly with competition from weeds. Thus it is essential to spray off the old sward. Any of the glyphosphate products are effective but rates need to be carefully checked as they can differ a lot. Most of the products need 7+ days to fully absorb the chemical. After the plant is dead the sward can be cut for silage or grazed. 

Fertility

Ensuring adequate Phosphorus (P), Potassium (K) and Lime are essential for successful reseeding. The most accurate way to judge a soils requirement for these is to do a soil test, but this can take 2 weeks to get results back, so plan in advance.

If the soil is not being ploughed and a min-till method is been used, i.e. discing or power harrowing, lime will need to be applied, 2t/ac, to counter act the acid that will be produced as the old sward decays.

As a general rule of thumb 3 bags of 10:10:20 per acre are required for reseeding but this will depend on the soil test results and if a farm is allowed to buy in P's. FYM or slurry can both be used to reduce or replace bag fertiliser. 

Fine and Firm Seedbed

There is sometimes a lot of debate about ploughing or using min-till. The decision will depend on a number of factors including cost, stoniness of ground, equipment available etc. All the methods can give excellent results but the basic requirement does not change which is a fine firm seedbed. After sowing the field should be rolled to ensure good soil to seed contact and preserve the moisture in the soil. If clover is important make sure this is on the surface. 

Post Spraying

Chickweed, red shank and docks commonly emerge after sowing. These should be sprayed, preferable with a clover safe spray, 4-5 weeks after sowing. If clover is important in your reseed make sure there are 3 leaves on the young clover plant, as ever clover safe sprays can cause set back/ kill very young clover plants.

Pests like frit fly and leather jackets can attack reseeds and should be sprayed early if present. These tend to be more of a problem when there is a lot trash left on the surface. 

Clover

In more recent years clover has been pushed by the industry as a way to help agriculture to meet its environmental obligations. By supplying N to the sward that otherwise would be supplied by artificial N, also clover improves the mid-season digestibility of the sward, thus helping to improve animal performance. If clover is been targeted to be active in the new sward, particular care must be taken with post emergence spray, soil fertility has to be high and the sward has to be well grazed after sowing with a low pre grazing cover. 

Varieties

The last bit of the jigsaw to ensure a success reseed is to pick grass/ clover varieties that will do the job you want from the sward. In general 1 tetraploid and 1 or 2 diploid varieties are used for the grasses. While small leaf white clovers should be used for sheep swards, with larger leaf white clovers used for cattle and cows. If a silage is the main use, red clover could form part of the mix, but get advice before hand as this requires slightly differ management. Only ever use varieties from the pastureprofit index as these are proven under Irish conditions. 

Reseeding is an expensive investment which can deliver excellent returns. However for the investment to succeed attention to detail and giving the young delicate grass/clover plant every chance to establish is vital.

You might also like to read Autumn Reseeding – Overcoming the extra challenges

Teagasc Advisors are regular contibutors of articles here on Teagasc Daily. | Find out lots more on this topic here: Reseeding or contact your local Teagasc Advisor. You can contact any of our Teagasc offices using this link Teagasc Advisory Regions here