Producers across England and Wales have been out earlier than usual drilling grass leys this year, taking advantage of the mild weather and keen to make up the forage shortfall caused by summer 2018’s drought.
“Grass is usually reseeded from mid-March onwards,” says Oliver Seeds Rod Bonshor. “But recently soil temperatures in the south west have been at 8°C, which is plenty warm enough for grass seed to germinate.
“Clover may struggle when drilled this early, but species such as perennial ryegrasses, festuloliums and Timothy will all get going pretty well. It’s a case of throw away the calendar and go when the land is fit to sow and moisture is available.”
Lighter, sandy soils will be able to take early drillings better than colder, damper clay soils. So Mr Bonshor advises producers on heavier land to hold back a week or two.
“And the same rules apply when reseeding, whatever the time of year,” he stresses. “Carry out soil tests to make sure there are enough nutrients available and dig a soil pit to check for compaction. Check the field drains are working and assess how many weeds are growing and if they need treating.
“Work the soil down to a fine, firm seedbed and use a Cambridge roll to consolidate the surface before drilling or broadcasting the seed, and then roll again.”