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Order summer forage seed early

February 14, 2013

John Jennings – Professor, Forage Specialist


Many producers are planning to use summer annual forages such as sorghum/sudan, millet, and crabgrass to bolster forage production this year due to last summer’s drought. The impact of the drought is affecting the summer annual forage seed supply. Much of the sorghum, millet, and crabgrass seed is produced in Kansas, Oklahoma, and parts of the southwest where drought has been severe the past two years.  This has caused low seed production of those forages. Producers intending to use these forages should purchase seed early before supplies are gone. Red River crabgrass seed is already sold out for the year. Sorghum and millet supply of certain varieties is somewhat better than last year, but as current inventory is sold, price will increase for any remaining supplies.


Crabgrass should be planted in April to mid-May at 3-5 lbs/acre. Higher rates produce quicker sod cover. Shallow planting is best. Time from emergence ( not day of planting) to first grazing of properly planted stands is about 40 days. Crabgrass is sensitive to close grazing. Grazing heights should be maintained above 4 inches for best regrowth. Crabgrass maintains quality over a wide range of maturity much better than bermudagrass and can produce good animal performance in grazing systems. Crabgrass makes good quality hay, but is very difficult to cure for baling due to the pubescent leaves and stems.


Millet and sorghum/sudan should be planted when soil temperatures reach 65 degress (early to mid-May). Planting can extend into early June with adequate soil moisture. Harvest can be expected about 6 weeks after planting in good conditions. Cutting or grazing to leave a stubble of 8 inches will result in quicker regrowth and possibly an extra harvest. Two to three harvests can be expected on earlier planted stands. Seeding rate is 25 lbs/acre. These forages tiller well so higher seeding rates are not necessary. Plant seed at ½ to 1 inch deep. Planting on a tilled seedbed is best. If no-till planting, use herbicide to suppress the sod before planting. Drilling into fescue sod without any sod suppression is only moderately successful maybe one or two years out of five. A thin stand of rows with long skips usually results from this practice. Grazing can begin when these forage reach 24 inches. Hay should be harvested at 30 to 40 inches in height. Hay harvested when plants are mature (6 feet and more) is low quality and very difficult to cure for baling. Prussic acid is a concern when grazing sorghum/sudan. This forage should be at least 18 inches before grazing and should not be grazed when wilted from drought or frost. Summer annual forages make excellent renovation crops to prepare damaged fields for replanting other perennial forages.

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