As the spring seeding season is coming up, producers have a lot of options to consider when it comes to forages.
Agri-Environmental Specialist with the Ministry of Environment Chelsea Siemens says that starts simply with deciding your needs.
"I always start by considering your desired end use, whether for hay or pasture. Not all forages are suited to both grazing and hay production due to their structure and regrowth habits. For example, meadow bromegrass regrows rapidly so it is appropriate for grazing, but it has basal leaves that can be challenging to cut for hay. Cicer milkvetch is also suited for grazing because it can be difficult to cut and slow to dry down."
She lists off some other considerations for that decision.
"Consider the desired season of use, and which species will produce the best combination of forage quality and yield at that time of year. The forage’s peak productivity should align with the time of year that it will be cut or grazed. For example, crested wheatgrass is at its best quality during early spring," said Siemens, "while Russian wildrye maintains good forage quality into late summer or fall. When choosing a mix of two or more forages to plant in a blend, consider how the timing and productivity of each species will work within the mix."
Mixing what forage species you use is an option that has both benefits and drawbacks.
"Planting a mixture of two or more forages can be more of an efficient use of soil moisture and nutrients than a single species. Mixed stands may last longer and are less susceptible to insect and disease pressure," said Siemens, "However, single species may be easier to seed, have more options for chemical weed control, and the timing of harvest for hay is more easily predicted."
Another important consideration is the environment that'll be seeded into.
"An important consideration is to match the forage species to the site they will be seeded in. Soil type, available moisture, salinity, and the potential for spring flooding will determine which species will thrive and persist in that location. For example, Green wheatgrass and slender wheatgrass are tolerant to saline soils," said Siemens, "While meadow fescue is tolerant to flooding."
"Be aware of the areas surrounding the new forage stand and recognize that aggressively creeping grasses such as smooth bromegrass will spread from where they are planted. You may want to consider the desired lifespan of the stand as some forages such as slender wheatgrass are shorter lived than others like tall wheatgrass."
Siemens says that people can find more information by calling the Agriculture Knowledge Centre at 1-866-457-2377 or by heading to the nearest Saskatchewan Ministry of Agriculture regional office.