Cool Season Forages – To Plant or Not to Plant?

The following is from Dr. Vanessa Corriher-Olson, Forage Extension Specialist, Soil & Crop Sciences, Overton, TX

Areas of Texas have received very little rainfall since the end of June. As we begin the month of October many of us are questioning whether to plant cool season annual forages (such as ryegrass, small grains or legumes). Many are optimistic about the wetter-than-normal winter that most likely will come because of an exceptionally strong El Nino this year. However, for many of us that hope is not enough as we look at the cost associated with planting.

Ideally we would like to plant to soil moisture. Summer pastures should be overseeded in October and early November depending on location. Delaying planting may give us an opportunity to plant to soil moisture depending on rainfall. Delaying planting too late (late November or December) will decrease overall forage production as well as result in a shorter grazing period.

If predictions are true and we do have a wetter-than-normal winter be prepared to manage any winter forages planted, especially those overseeded into existing warm season perennial sods (bermudagrass, bahiagrass, etc). Late (April/May) ryegrass or legume forage production can slow down the spring recovery of our warm season perennial grasses. Be prepared to increase stocking rate or harvest excess forage at that time to allow for warm season perennials to break dormancy.

For information on cool season annual forage options as well as planting methods please review the following publications:

Establishing Cool-Season Annual Grasses

Cool-Season Forage Legume Management Guide

Annual Winter Pasture Establishment Management




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