Seeding Rates, Dates and Depths for Common Missouri Forages
Craig Roberts and James Gerrish
Department of Agronomy
The first step in forage management is the proper establishment of pasture and hay fields. This in turn depends on proper seeding. If the seeding rate is too low, the stand will be thin and weedy. If it is too high, establishment costs will be prohibitive. If the seeding rate is ideal, stands can still fail by planting at improper depths or times.
This guide presents rates, depths and dates for seeding common Missouri forages. The following tables contain annuals, perennials, and biennials, as well as grasses and legumes. This information is based on research and professional experience in Missouri and, when appropriate, from surrounding states.
Using the tables
The tables report broad ranges for seeding rates and planting dates for both pure stands (Table 1) and mixtures (Table 2). These broad ranges reflect the diverse environmental and managerial practices in Missouri forage operations. The dates are based on typical conditions for central Missouri. Therefore, for northern Missouri, early fall and late spring dates are advised. For southern Missouri, the opposite adjustments are suggested. The higher rates are appropriate for average to poor soils and for broadcast seeding.
Remember that these rates and dates are only guidelines; they apply to typical pasture and hay operations, not to extreme conditions. The rates do not include "shotgun mixtures," because such mixtures are based on limited experience and data. They do, however, include rates for simple mixtures common to Missouri pastures and hayfields.
Seeding rates for the native warm-season grasses do not coincide completely with rates suggested by conservation groups. The rates suggested here for native grasses apply to pure stands rather than native ranges, average soils rather than alluvial soils, and livestock production rather than wildlife habitat and ground cover.
(pounds of live seed per acre)
|Barley||Annual, cool-season grass||Broadcast:110 to 140|
Drilled:80 to 110
|Sept 15 to 30||1 to 2 inches|
|Bermudagrass||Perennial, warm-season grass||20 to 30 bushels per acre sprigged|
30 bushels broadcast
|March to May|
1 to 2 inches
|Bluegrass, Kentucky||Perennial, cool-season grass||Broadcast:10 to 15|
Drilled:8 to 10
|January and February||1/8 to 1/4 inches|
|Bluestem, big||Perennial, warm-season grass||6 to 8||April and May||1/4 to 1/2 inches|
|Bluestem, Caucasian||Perennial, warm-season grass||3 to 4||late April to early May||1/4 inches|
|Bromegrass, smooth||Perennial, cool-season grass||Broadcast:15 to 20 Drilled:10 to 15||February and March||September||1/4 to 1/2 inches|
|Eastern gamagrass||Perennial, warm-season grass||Drilled:10||May|
|Fescue, tall||Perennial, cool-season grass||Broadcast:15 to 20 Drilled:10 to 15||Before April 15||Before Sept. 15||1/4 to 1/2 inches|
|Johnsongrass||Perennial, warm-season grass||10 to 20||Early spring||1/4 to 1/2 inches|
|Indiangrass||Perennial, warm-season grass||6 to 8||April and May||1/4 to 1/2 inches|
|Millet, pearl||Annual, cool-season grass||Broadcast:20 to 30 Drilled:15||May to early June||1/2 to 1 inches|
|Oats||Annual, cool-season grass||80 to 120||March||Sept 15 to 30||1 to 2 inches|
|Orchardgrass||Perennial, cool-season grass||10 to 15||late March to early April||late August to early September||1/4 to 1/2 inches|
|Reed canarygrass||Perennial, cool-season grass||5 to 10||Early spring||August||1/4 to 1/2 inches|
|Rye||Annual, cool-season grass||110 to 160||After Sept. 15||1 to 2 inches|
|Ryegrass, perennial||Annual, cool-season grass||Broadcast:15 to 30 Drilled:15 to 20||Late summer to early fall||1/2 inches|
|Switchgrass||Perennial, warm-season grass||6 to 8||April and May||1/4 to 1/2 inches|
|Sudangrass||Annual, cool-season grass||Broadcast:30 to 40 Drilled:20 to 25||May 5 to 20||1 to 1/2 inches|
|Timothy||Perennial, cool-season grass||Broadcast:8 Drilled:3 to 6||February and March||Aug. 20 to Oct. 1||1/4 to 1/2 inches|
|Triticale||Annual, cool-season grass||70 to 100||October||1 to 2 inches|
|Wheat||Annual, cool-season grass||100 to 150||Oct. 1 to 15||1 to 2 inches|
|Alfalfa||Perennial, warm-season legume||12 to 15||Before April 15||September||1/4 inches|
|Birdsfoot trefoil||Perennial, cool-season legume||4 to 8||February to early Mar||Fall||1/8 inches|
|Clover, alsike||Perennial, cool-season legume||4 to 6||Early spring||Fall||1/4 inches|
|Clover, crimson||Annual, cool-season legume||Broadcast:20 to 25||July to November||1/4 inches|
|Clover, ladino||Perennial, cool-season legume||Broadcast:1 to 3||February to April 15||August early September||1/4 inches|
|Clover, red||Perennial, cool-season legume||8 to 12||February to April 15||Aug. 15 to Sept. 15||1/4 to 1/2 inches|
|Crownvetch||Perennial, warm-season legume||10 to 15||March 15 to May 15||October to April||1/4 inches|
|Hairy vetch||Bienniall, cool-season legume||25 to 30||October to Nov. 15||1 to 2 inches|
|Lespedeza, common||Annual, warm-season legume||Broadcast:15 Drilled:10||March and April||1/4 inches|
|Lespedeza, Korean||Annual, warm-season legume||Broadcast:15 Drilled:10||March and April||1/4|
|Lespedeza, sericea||Perennial, warm-season legume||25 to 35||March 15 to April 15||1/4 inches|
Seeding dates are for Columbia.
Plant later in spring and earlier in fall in northern Missouri.
Plant earlier in spring and later in fall in southern Missouri.
|Grass-legume mixtures||Seeding rate|
(pounds live seed per acre)
|Orchardgrass + Alfalfa||6 + 10|
|Orchardgrass + Birdsfoot trefoil||3 + 5|
|Orchardgrass + Birdsfoot trefoil + Kentucky bluegrass||3 + 5 + 1|
|Orchardgrass + Ladino clover||6 + 1|
|Orchardgrass + Lespedeza||6 + 15|
|Orchardgrass + Lespedeza + Ladino clover||6 + 15 + 1/2|
|Orchardgrass + Red clover||6 + 8|
|Reed canarygrass + Alfalfa||6 + 10|
|Reed canarygrass + Ladino clover + Alsike clover||6 + 1 + 2|
|Reed canarygrass + Red clover||6 + 10 or 6 + 8|
|Smooth bromegrass + Alfalfa||10 + 10|
|Smooth bromegrass + Birdsfoot trefoil||5 to 6 + 5|
|Tall fescue + Alfalfa||10 + 10 or 15 + 10|
|Tall fescue + Alfalfa + Ladino clover||15 + 10 + 1/2|
|Tall fescue + Birdsfoot trefoil||5 to 8 + 5|
|Tall fescue + Ladino clover||15 + 1|
|Tall fescue + Lespedeza, annual||15 + 15|
|Tall fescue + Lespedeza + Ladino clover||15 + 15 + 1/2|
|Tall fescue + Red clover||10 + 8 or 15 + 8|
|Tall fescue + Red clover + Ladino clover||10 + 6 + 1|
|Timothy + Birdsfoot trefoil||2 + 5|
|Timothy + Birdsfoot trefoil + Kentucky bluegrass||1 + 5 + 2|
|Timothy + Red clover||2 (fall) or 4 (spring) + 8|
|Wheat + Hairy vetch||40 + 20 or 40 + 30|
|Renovation||Broadcast||Drilled on prepared seedbed|
|On undisturbed soil||On tilled soil|
Why Forage Seedings Fail
- Live seed does not germinate because:
- Impermeable seed coat: This can be overcome by scarifying seed.
- Not enough air: This occurs because seed were sown too deeply or in wet soils.
- Not enough moisture.
- Seedlings die immediately after germination because:
- Drying: seed placed in loose surface soil may germinate after a light rain, then dry out before developing sufficient roots for establishment.
- Freezing: Seed are sensitive to freezing as the young root breaks the seed coat; temperatures below -3 degrees Celsius are lethal. Soil coverage reduces the likelihood of injury, and once rooted, seedlings can withstand much lower temperatures.
- Light coverage: Soil cover or mulch protects against both drying and freezing; without it, seed establish only when soil surface remains moist for extended periods.
- Heavy coverage: Most wasted seed probably occurs this way.
- Crusted soil surface: This can prevent emergence, especially when seed are sown deeply on fine-textured soils.
- Toxicity: Seed in direct contact with banded fertilizer, improper use of herbicides, herbicide carryover, and autotoxicity can damage seed and young seedlings.
- Seedlings die after establishment because:
- Undesirable pH: Lime should be applied according to soil test to provide a desirable pH; calcium and magnesium should be applied as nutrients.
- Low fertility: A soil test should be used to ensure adequate phosphorus, potassium, or other nutrients.
- Inadequate legume inoculation.
- Poor drainage: Water accumulation on the surface or in the soil profile can limit growth.
- Drought: This is the reason most commonly given for stand failures.
- Seedling vigor: Some forages, including nurse crops, can compete with forage seedlings for water, light and nutrients.
- Insects and pests.
- Winterkill: Seeding too late in the fall or seeding poorly adapted cultivars can cause winterkill.