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GO-Richland 2018 Recap

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Looking back at the 2018 growing season at our Richland, Iowa Research Farm, it was quite a condensed season. We had the coldest April in 100 years. I learned that the normal flowering dates for our clovers were pushed back 4-6 days and forage production was cut drastically. FIXatioN Balansa Clover forage production was less than half of what it was in the Spring of 2017. Snow and below freezing temperatures into the last week of April really limited forage production and while the flowering dates were a bit later, they couldn’t make up for the 3 weeks of growth they missed out on.

Even with a very cold, extended winter and short Spring, we had quite a bit of Frosty Berseem Clover plants that survived the winter. As in the past, these plants are allowed to flower and seed is collected. The seed from the surviving plants is then planted back again in Iowa to further select for greater cold tolerance.

In the Fall of 2017 I planted a silage trial consisting of rows of WinterMax and HyOctane Triticale as well as Hood Barley. While WinterMax showed some great traits in the fall, such as upright growth and quick establishment, being bred in New Zealand, it lacked cold tolerance and did not survive the winter. Hood Barley also had a very low survival rate. HyOctane had nearly 100% winter survival. Between the grain rows, I planted Survivor Peas which had a very high survival rate also. The HyOctane & Survivor section produced a large forage harvest in May.

Another trial I planted in the fall of 2017 was a matrix of Albion Tetraploid Perennial Ryegrass with different Clovers (FIXatioN Balansa, Frosty Berseem, Kentucky Pride Crimson,AberLasting Hybrid and Domino White). I had 2 reps of each clover/Albion mix. The highest yielding plots were the FIXatioN Balansa/Albion plots. Frosty had quite a bit of winterkill which we expected. Kentucky Pride, AberLasting and Domino all had excellent survival rates and forage production. By the fall of 2018, AberLasting and Domino were looking very strong but not overwhelming the Albion. Check out my blog with details on this trial.

In May, when the soil dried out and warmed up, I planted a Spring Cover Crop Matrix. The species planted were White Mustard, Purple Top Turnips, German Millet, Daikon Radish, Buckwheat, Phacelia, Frosty Berseem, Survivor Winter Peas, Spring Oats and Sun Hemp.The purpose of this trial was to see what combination of two species was the best at suppressing weeds. I posted a detailed blog about the findings last summer.

An idea Jerry and I came up with last Spring was to simulate strip-tilling corn into plots of clovers planted in the Fall of 2017. The clovers were FIXatioN, Frosty, Kentucky Pride and AberLasting. The Clovers all did a good job of suppressing weeds and adding Nitrogen to the corn in May. What we learned is that a 6” strip is not nearly wide enough. When the clovers hit their spring growth spurt in early May, they proved to be too much competition for the corn in many places. What we saw in AberLasting was great promise as a perennial cover crop product. More on that in the seasons to come.

The Summer of 2018 marked the end of our Forage Grass Maturity Trial. In the fall of 2016, I planted plants from 8 different species and 72 different forage varieties. The data collected on plant maturities of these varieties will help develop a forage grass maturity index to help producers select varieties that meet their forage production needs.

In September of this year, I started planting plots and trials for Spring of 2019. I planted a plot of our experimental Persian Clover variety to see how it does after a cold, roller coaster Iowa Winter. I planted a plot of a new wildlife food plot consisting of FIXatioN Balansa Clover and Dwarf Essex Rape. Jerry fell in love with this mix because the seeds are Oregon State Beaver colors. Makes sense, right?

I planted another silage trial with HyOctane Triticale as the grain component and a section with Survivor Peas and another with FIXatioN Balansa Clover. Next Spring I will measure forage output and forage quality on both.

The coolest trial planted last Fall was my Bio-Strip trial. I planted 3 rows, 6” apart of Buckwheat, Driller Radish and Oats. They all put on a tremendous amount of growth and will winter-kill. Between reps of the 3 winterkill species I have an 18” wide strip of clover. I planted FIXatioN Balansa, Kentucky Pride Crimson and AberLasting Hybrid. Next April, the goal is to plant corn between the rows of Buckwheat and Radish. The soil in that winter-killed strip should be full of nutrients and very mellow. The residue should suppress Spring weeds as well. The annual clovers between the corn rows should help suppress weeds and give the corn a shot of Nitrogen over the summer. The AberLasting will provide ground cover between corn rows and likely provide some Nitrogen as well.

As I write this blog, it is 20° outside with a 4° wind chill. It will be a long winter of fighting to survive out in Richland. I’m looking forward to seeing what comes out the other side!

For a printable, PDF version of this blog, click below.

GO Richland- 2018 Recap.PDF

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The Best Clover For Deer: Fixation Balansa

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From grazing cattle to growing deer, an improved variety of balansa clover for deer is integral to Chris Herring’s Mississippi commodity farm and land management business.

From the time Chris Herring of Columbus, Miss., planted his field of balansa clover at the end of September to the last time we spoke in mid-May, the crop had been flooded 21 times.

The real kicker? It is still alive and thriving.

Improved varieties of cover crops have managed to make their mark as an integral part of Chris’ business enterprises due to their consistency and the ability to select for specific trait performance.

Managing Food Plots For Trophy Deer

As a land manager, his company, Southern Forest Timber is responsible for improving land and wildlife conditions for 20,000 acres in the southeast. On top of that, Chris also farms 200 acres of cotton and soybeans and manages 110 acres in a forage food plot rotation to develop deer and turkeys. The underlying business model off all three systems is simple: invest in inputs that will improve land conditions to make as much money as possible.

Using his food plot ground as a testing center for new applications, Chris decided to trial FIXatioN Balansa Clover for deer four years ago.

Bred specifically to fix significant amounts of nitrogen and to produce a large amount of biomass that is high in crude protein, Chris chose it as a solution to his winter dip in feed quality for the deer herd. According to Chris, a deer needs 15-18% crude protein in its diet – this variety averages 20-25% – just the ticket for growing the big boys.

When Do Deer Eat Cover?

Utilized within a forage soybean and corn rotation, crops are planted green into balansa clover to take advantage of the nitrogen it fixes as it starts to decompose. Drilling at the end of September and giving deer access to it in February, the clover has done more than provide a high-quality feedstuff to the deer till mid-May.

Benefits of Balansa Clover For Deer

The deep tap roots (Chris’ measured more than a foot long) held soil in place and improved soil moisture conditions in the farm’s heavy soils. The high amount of biomass also made a remarkable difference in weeds within the first year, particularly pigweed (Amaranthus sp.) that the farm routinely battles.

Most impressively has been the clover’s ‘wet feet’ that has kept it thriving in saturated conditions that historically drowned out other crops

With confidence in its performance, FIXatioN Balansa Clover has been integrated into all of Chris’ enterprises.

On his commodity soybean and cotton land, it is being used in mixtures to improve soil structure, organic matter and to successfully cut herbicide inputs. With some of his client’s land, it is also being used as a tool to improve wildlife ecosystems and most recently, to graze cattle.

Fundamental to the success of Chris’ business enterprises have been curiosity and an open mind to trying new things. Keeping that in practice, he is continually experimenting with new applications of the balansa clover. Recently, he achieved a 120bu/acre yield on a corn trial planted green into balansa and given zero fertilizer. This fall, he won’t be reseeding any balansa on food plots that were allowed to naturally playout for the last three years to see what type of natural reseed is achieved.

Investing Into Inputs

Once a grower of Dixie Crimson Clover, an industry standard variety, Chris had seen enough to realize the return on investment opportunities when using an improved variety. The consistency in performance and trait enhancement allowed him to reduce input costs and improve outputs while giving him the data to utilize FIXatioN in many different applications – something he wasn’t getting with Dixie. An industry standard variety for crimson clover, decades of uncontrolled varietal or production oversight has left Dixie with zero performance consistency. Varying traits such as winter survival rates, root depths, biomass production and maturity dates have made it a gamble for anyone that plants it.

For Chris, the data to make strategic management decisions and to understand how the crop was going to perform made the investment into the improved balansa variety worth it – and its performance paid for it.

We’ve asked Chris to tell us more about his food plots and what the best clover for deer are.

by Guest Blogger, Chris Herring, Southern Forest Timber

As a serious deer manager, I am always searching for the best nutritional forages to supplement my deer herd. I have made a proven and definite find for one of the best deer forages that I have ever used. It’s Fixation Balansa Clover.

best clover for deer

At my farm in Lowndes County, Mississippi, we manage our deer herd very intensely. My number one management tool is planting high quality forage. I started five years ago with a very aggressive food plot management plan. This plan would try to implement 12 months of high protein nutrition through food plot plantings. I have planted many species promoted for white-tail deer, cool season and warm season food plots were implemented. Soybeans, cowpeas, white clover, cereal grains, and brassicas were planted. I always had a low nutritional gap between the end of February through May, except for my white clover.

Fixation Balansa Clover was implemented into my nutritional plan in 2015, on recommendation by another white-tail deer guru, Bronson Strickland, from Mississippi State University. I contacted GO Seed and the rest is history.

I am looking for three main characteristics in my deer forages:

  1. Protein Levels
  2. Palatability
  3. Grazing Ability and Pressure

Fixation Balansa Clover has it all. My goal is to have the deer herd, especially the bucks, in the best physical shape coming out of the winter stress periods, especially the rut. Fixation Balansa Clover delivers the nutrition deer need and the plant really peeks at the optimum time.

In my opinion, the healthier the deer coming out of the winter produce the maximum potential in antler size and body weights.

For a printable PDF of an earlier version of this blog, click below.

Chris Herring- Fixation Balansa Clover.PDF

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2019 Richland Research Farm Update

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The Winter of 2018-2019 will go down in history as one of the coldest and wettest winters ever in parts of the Midwest. While we didn’t get hit with all 24 of the named winter storms, we did have run-ins with Bruce, Carter, Gia, Harper, Indra, Jayden, Lucian, Maya I, Oren, Petra and Scott. On top of that came numerous Polar Vortexes and a bomb cyclone or two.

February in particular was remarkably brutal with heavy rain, sleet and ice on top of frozen ground. This combination of precipitation resulted in several inches of ice that stuck around well into March and suffocated vegetation. It was one of the worst winters for killing pastures and alfalfa fields many could remember. The Grassland Oregon Richland, IA Research Farm was under 3-4” of ice from early February until the second week of March. The outcome was not pretty.

Let’s take a look at what was planted last fall and how it came thru the winter.

Towards the end of August 2018, we were in the midst of a hot, dry spell and I was beginning to think it may never rain again so I decided I better get started on my fall projects early. On August 28th I planted my bio strip plot. I planted rows of Driller Radish, Oats and Buckwheat 6” apart with the next series of these species starting 36” later. These species would all winter-kill.

In a 12” strip between the winter-kill crops, I planted clovers. Four replications each of AberLasting Hybrid CloverFIXatioN Balansa Clover and Kentucky Pride Crimson Clover were utilized. The plan was to plant sweet corn between the Driller Radish and Buckwheat the following Spring. The residue from the winter-killed crops would “bio-till” the soil and the residue would help suppress weeds and hold in moisture. The clover would hopefully survive and help to suppress weeds then give the corn it’s nitrogen when they reached the end of their life cycle in May.

The winter-kill species did their job and it was like planting the corn into butter in April. AberLasting made it thru the winter unscathed. So much so that I realized I had planted it too heavy. Once warm weather arrived, the clover spread out and competed with the corn. This area of the farm was under ice for 5 weeks and it took a toll on the FIXatioN and Kentucky Pride. In early April it looked like most of it had been suffocated but 4 weeks later, I had all the FIXatioN I could handle. It’s amazing how many times we hear from a farmer that his FIXatioN didn’t make it thru the winter then a couple weeks later, they call back and say, “Holy Smokes, that clover is everywhere!” I got to see that happen first hand this year. The Sweet Corn in this plot doesn’t look too good but if you live in the Midwest, you wouldn’t expect it to. May and much of June were extremely wet and cool which is not good weather for growing corn.

On September 11, 2018 I planted large blocks of our annual legumes. FIXatioN Balansa Clover, Frosty Berseem Clover, Kentucky Pride Crimson Clover, a couple experimental Persian Clover lines, Survivor Winter Peas as well as common Hairy Vetch and Dixie (VNS) Crimson Clover. Our growing season in Iowa ended early and abruptly with cold weather arriving in early October but not before the legumes were well established and ready to take on the winter weather. These blocks of clovers were under a 3” sheet of ice for 5 weeks and it wreaked havoc on them. 90% of the Hairy Vetch was killed, 70% of the Kentucky Pride was killed, all of the Dixie (VNS) suffocated, Frosty was gone (not that unusual as it only survived down to about 15*F). FIXatioN fared the best of all but even it was only about a 50% stand. This was the first year in the 5 years I have been growing FIXatioN that it had any noticeable winter-kill.

Frost Seeding trials were on deck for February 2019 but without my hockey skates, I wasn’t going to get anything planted. On March 18th, the ground was finally clear of ice and I frost seeded Red Clover and Frosty Berseem Clover. Frosty lived up to its name and looked phenomenal.

By June 27 it was 18” tall and had suppressed the weeds that wanted to consume the farm as usual. Alfalfa fields that were frost seeded with Frosty Berseem last spring definitely paid dividends to farmers who had winter-kill difficulties in their fields.

We are now in the dog days of summer with temperatures in the mid 90’s, dew points in the 70’s and summer annual weeds stretching their legs. We have perfect conditions for foliar diseases so I am paying close attention to our space plant nursery of new turf and forage candidates to see which ones will do best in these trying conditions.

Enjoy the rest of the summer!

For a printable, PDF version of this blog, click below.

2019 Richland Research Update.PDF

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Have You Considered Frost Seeding Clover?

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Even though the ground may be frozen or covered with snow where you live, the turn of the year means it is time to seriously start mapping out your spring and summer forage plan.

March is a perfect time to think about dormant seeding your pastures with a legume.

Extended growing seasons, higher yields and feeding quality, along with increased establishment rates and convenience are just a few benefits frost seeding can bring to your farm or ranch.

What Is Frost Seeding?

Dormant seeding, or frost seeding, is accomplished by broadcasting seed across the frozen ground –preferably with no snow cover. The natural heaving of the soils in the winter works the seed into the top 0.25 inches of soil. Since the clover seed can germinate and start growing once weather becomes favorable instead of having to wait until soil firms up enough to get drilling equipment into the field, frost seeding can increase establishment.

What’s The Best Clover For Frost Seeding?

Before giving frost seeding a try, it is important to do your homework on seed selection, only choosing cold tolerant varieties that will survive subfreezing temperatures.

In the past, the most prominent legume specie used in frost seeding was red clover. However, improved plant breeding is bringing more species into the frost seeding offering.

Frosty Berseem Clover

One of the most recent developments is Frosty Berseem Clover, the first cold tolerant berseem clover on the market.

Prior to its development, the ability to capture the benefits of both frost seeding and berseem clover into one system hasn’t been possible. But with the ability to thrive in temperatures as low as 5 degrees Fahrenheit and zero snow cover, a cold tolerant berseem clover allows for the best of both. 

Cold tolerance isn’t the only thing that makes Frosty Berseem special. Unlike red clover, there haven’t been any cases of bloat documented. Also, unlike red clover, Frosty Berseem does not cause photosensitivity and does not have estrogen related issues.

When it comes to grazing animals, Frosty Berseem clover is the safe choice when renovating pastures with clovers!

frost seeding

Frosty Berseem Clover is also one of the few clovers that doesn’t cause bloat, making it great choice for livestock producers.

In a trial conducted by Mississippi State University, it produced non-bloating forage with crude protein content of 20.5%.

In a separate trial by Pennsylvania State University, the cold tolerant variety produced more than 4 tons of dry matter per acre in a two-cut hay system, while fixing 150 pounds of nitrogen per acre.

Cold tolerant clovers, like Frosty Berseem Clover, can be used to frost seed pastures.

When harvesting that bountiful Frosty crop, make sure to leave enough plant material, or top-growth with leaves so that it can re-grow. About 4 inches will do the trick. Unlike alfalfa, Frosty’s energy factory – which produces re-growth, is in the plant material above ground.

FIXatioN Balansa Clover

FIXatioN Balansa Clover is an excellent choice for incorporating into pastures. FIXatioN has shown very good performance and features crude protein levels and digestibility that exceeds that of most other legumes. While FIXatioN is an annual clover, it is capable of re-seeding itself and thus, will remain part of your pasture for years to come. FIXatioN thrives in heavy clay soils that can become waterlogged and offers the best performance of all clover species in acidic soils.

Crimson Clover

Kentucky Pride Crimson Clover is late maturing, flowering up to two weeks later than other varieties of crimson. It was selected for its unique cold tolerance and ability to produce much more forage than its competitors. Kentucky Pride is an excellent component in mixes providing quality forage. Its roots can grow down beyond 30 inches, breaking down hard pans in the soil.

AberLasting Clover

AberLasting is the first Caucasian white clover hybrid to be developed anywhere that offers drought tolerant rhizomatous root characteristics as well as the nutritive and N-fixing benefits of white clover. Developed through conventional crossing techniques, AberLasting is a small leaved white clover that has proven to be drought tolerant and persistent, even in clover root weevil areas, and therefore is ideal for long term grazing. AberLasting was bred for stress tolerance, grazing tolerance, pest and disease resistance and are fully compatible with all Grassland Oregon ryegrass cultivars.

Dynamite Red Clover

Dynamite is a high-yielding, double-cut red clover that was selected for both improved disease resistance and forage production. It is ideal for use throughout the United States and Canada. It exhibits early spring growth with abundant regrowth after harvest which improves the overall life of stand. It is less fibrous making it more digestible, which can lead to an increase in animal performance in terms of both milk and meat production. Red clover should be avoided if the pasture is used by either horses or sheep.

Frost Seeding Into Alfalfa

Frosty Berseem clover’s physical appearance, forage quality, and dry down time is similar to that alfalfa. Making Frosty the number one choice for filling in thin stands of alfalfa. Frosty is tolerant of wetter soils than alfalfa so if you have areas in your hay field that drowned out, Frosty Berseem can fill the void.

Frosty Berseem Clover is the variety to use to incorporate into declining alfalfa stands. Frosty is a multi-cut berseem clover that is similar in appearance and in forage quality to that of alfalfa. Frosty is also one of the few clover varieties that have been shown to have little to no incidence of bloat.

In a recent trial conducted in Mississippi, Frosty was sown as a monoculture and directly grazed. No bloat was observed among the cattle that were grazing it.

No matter which species you choose, GO Seed has you covered in this low-cost way to improve your forage.

For a printable, PDF version of an earlier version of this blog, click below.

Have You Considered Frost Seeding.PDF

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Managing for Trophy Bucks

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Nobody hopes to bag a small deer. Hunters scout for the ideal spot. They strategize as to what food plot mix to plant to hunt over and spend hours looking over gear. Everybody knows that what you get out of something is directly related to the time, money, and energy that you put into it.

So, let’s talk about food plots. If you’re focused entirely on “hunt over” plots you are missing the mark when it comes to growing bigger deer. Hunters wanting big deer know that you need to also provide high energy forage in the Spring. This is the time frame needed to grow big fawns and big racks.

To learn more, check out our latest brochure, “Managing Trophy Bucks

If video is more your style, check out the brief infomercial that our crack marketing team put together. “Growing Bigger Deer” is a quick way to get the message out on how FIXatioN Balansa Clover goes beyond a “hunt over” component of a food plot. Big fawns grow up to be big deer and nutrition is the key!

If you like the format of the video or brochure be sure to let your Grassland Oregon salesperson know or drop us a line at info@grasslandoregon.com
Have some great topics that you would like us to address? Let us know! Remember there are no dumb ideas. Well okay, maybe there are a few, but Risa has already told me, “No, we aren’t doing that”.

For a printable, PDF version of this blog, click below.

Managing Trophy Bucks.PDF

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Super Silage with FIXatioN Clover

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Don and I went to visit a local farmer who was chopping FIXatioN silage last night…  

He was a little late getting it cut (flowering), but that’s real life on the farm sometimes, and he’s pretty excited about what he’s seeing.

He said if he were taking it for hay he thought he’d get at least 7-8 tons of dry matter per acre, and promised to let us know what the actual silage yield was when he was done.

You should hear the sound of the stems ‘popping’ when you walk across them – sounds like Rice Krispies! Snap-Crackle-Pop!!!

Click here if you’d like to listen to the audio file.

Talk about weed suppression! He said it completely choked out the Poa Annua – he’d never seen anything like it.

Once they started chopping, they quickly realized it was too wet. Clogging up the equipment isn’t fun, so they’re going to let it dry another couple days.

They promised to call so we can go back and take more photos – Stay tuned!

So…I followed up with Christopher recently to see how the FIXatioN silage was working out. Given the photos above you might not be surprised to learn that they harvested over 20 tons per acre of juicy silage!

They’ve been feeding the silage to their cows with great response – according to Christopher they’re milking really good!

For a printable, PDF version of this blog, click below.

Super Silage.PDF

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Jail Break!

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After days of stretching the fence, these cows finally broke out of their pasture and rapidly walked across an alfalfa field to get into a FIXatioN Balansa clover block. The FIXatioN was planted in the middle of the alfalfa field as an observation trial. According to the farmer in Ohio who sent us the picture, not once did the cows stop or put their head down to take a bite of alfalfa as they made their way to the FIXatioN. He tried a few times to get them out of the plot but they would not move until they had their fill. Only then was he finally able to get them back across the alfalfa and into the newly repaired fence.

Livestock love FIXatioN for its outstanding palatability. It is an ideal forage because of its lush growth and high yields. With FIXatioN’s high crude protein

levels and relative feed value, you will see improved gains and healthier animals. It makes sense to add FIXatioN to your pasture mixes.

For a printable, PDF version of this blog, click below.


Don Baune
Co-Founder, Partner, Sales for North America
DBaune@GOSeed.com
Find Don on Twitter! @GrasslandRoscoe

Jail Break.PDF

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Inter-seeding cover crops requires long range weather forecasting

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Lately you may have been hearing a lot about inter-seeding as a means to get cover crops started early or where otherwise, due to late corn harvest, they might not get planted at all.

While inter-seeding into corn has been fairly successful, I have yet to hear of much success when seeding into soybeans. As with anything there are risks and it seems that drought is one of the biggest when it comes to successfully establishing an inter-seeded crop into corn.

When we first heard of inter-seeding we thought we would try it on our SE Iowa research farm. The first year it worked well. I was nervous our annual clovers or annual ryegrass would quickly go to seed. However, it appears the shade from corn is enough to defeat the photoperiod maturity aspect of these species. The only spots where we saw any flowering was along the edge of the field, something that is easily adjusted for. Our second year we planted later than I would have liked and it got too dry before we could get much size on the cover crops. As a result, most did not make it and we didn’t have much of a stand when the corn crop started to dry down. The one variety that did perform the best was our Frosty Berseem clover, which has better drought tolerance than the other species.

Later we tried to duplicate our trial on a nearby farm but pre-emergent herbicide residual kept anything from establishing. If you are going to try inter-seeding you will want to limit your use of pre-emergent herbicide or test germinate some quick germinating seed in an area where you can watch and water it regularly. If it doesn’t live where you baby it, don’t bother seeding across the rest of the field.

We felt that we had learned enough that when we were approached by Dr. Ryan Haden of Ohio State to help fund his inter-seeded cover crop trial we were happy to do so. Below is the data from his first year of the trial.

I feel that inter-seeding will work, but you need to pay attention to the long-range forecast. Since the Ohio State data doesn’t show a lot of biomass, I doubt that the increase in yield in 2015, the establishment year, had much to do with biological Nitrogen fixed by the clovers. I believe what we are seeing in this trial must do more with the soil conditioning properties of the cover crops and the biological responses in the soil. The 2016 data would be in response to the nitrogen produced by the clover in addition to the biological soil improvement. There is a lot left to learn when it comes to inter-seeding and we will be sharing more data as it comes along.

For a printable, PDF version of this blog, click below.

Inter-seeding Cover Crops.PDF

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Diary of a Father Daughter Pasture Experiment

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October 5, 2016 -I talked my dad into trying some of our seed in his pastures. It’s only taken 30 years of me being in the Seed Industry – and it was by bribing him with free seed. He’s always subscribed to the thought that if there is something green and growing in the pasture, there is no need to spend any money to ‘improve’ things.

Today is the day – the seed had been delivered and the field prepared. In fact, the SucraSEED pasture mix already on the ground thanks to a friend.

Today we were going to overseed with FIXatioN Balansa, the clover I’ve been bragging about so much. Since he doesn’t have any planting equipment, we had to improvise. My solution – use a hand crank lawn seed/fertilizer spreader…I’ll sit on the front of the four-wheeler and ‘crank’ while dad drives up and down the field. Not exactly what you’d call precision planting. I’m sure it wasn’t very uniform, but it got the job done and we used all the seed.

In the process, I dropped my cell phone somewhere in the field…didn’t realize it until I got home that night. It was too dark to go back and look, not to mention the battery was all but dead so I couldn’t call it to locate it. DRATS!

October 6, 2016 – Went back to the field this morning not really expecting to find my phone. It rained overnight and I was sure it was a goner. Amazingly the cell phone was just inside the opening to the field, good thing it was bare dirt or I never would have found it! WOW – it works! Thank-you Microsoft – your Windows phone is very resilient.

January 26, 2017 – Went down to dad’s to check on the pasture – he’s out of town so no four-wheeler, I’ll have to walk. It’s been really wet, but I want to see what’s there. The grasses are coming up well and I can find little baby FIXatioN plants, however they’re a bit hard to pick out from all the buttercup that’s also coming up.

There are a lot of ‘surprise’ plants germinating from disturbing the soil when the field was tilled. No herbicides were used – like I said – this wasn’t ‘precision planted’. There is also a lot of standing water. It’s Oregon, and to be expected, but I’m glad I have good Muck boots…almost left one in the muck a couple of times. I see the FIXatioN is growing even in the standing water. So far, so good.

March 21, 2017 – We’ve been getting way more than our share of liquid sunshine so I thought I’d go check the pasture again to make sure things aren’t drowning. Dad is at the auction today, so I’m hoofing it again. Today is foggy, that dense fog that makes everything quiet; sound doesn’t travel well. I can see the ground but not much more than about 50 feet in front of me.

Thankfully, the grasses and clover are still growing, and look surprisingly well considering. I did notice that there are lots of roots on the surface of the soil at the base of the plants. Can’t say I’ve ever seen this before, I’ll have to ask Jerry about it when I get back to the office.

I have to walk around the field quite a bit to find any FIXatioN in the growing grass. I didn’t really expect to see much more top growth – this time of year the plants are spending almost all their energy on growth underground, developing their roots, but I was determined to find some of the young clover plants. They’re there, just not easy to locate. Still surviving the standing water, in fact, it’s easier to find them in the water because not much else can survive that environment for long.

Michael, my husband, got nervous waiting in the car, concerned I’d gotten stuck in the mud or was lying face down in a puddle unable to call for help. The fog didn’t help. By the time he mucked his way out to this particular pasture, he’d almost lost his boots and suffered the demise he imagined me in. …If I’d only brought my cell phone and not left it in the car…

April 21, 2017 – The weather pattern has been stuck and I’m thinking of performing a ‘sun’ dance…. Today there’s supposed to be a brief period of sun. I don’t want to miss the chance so I’m hoofing it…again. Dad is out of town, and I’m beginning to think he’s doing this on purpose. The cattle from the field between the house and the new pasture thought I was pretty interesting and gave me quite a bit of attention, so I returned the favor and took a few pictures while scratching their heads.

There are pockets of FIXatioN that are easier to pick out now. Other than the heavy concentration at the front of the field where we spilled seed every time we filled the seeder, I still have to walk quite a ways to find them.

They’re starting to get taller – about 6-8 inches in the best spots and the leaves are getting that tell-tale jagged edge. I was able to take a few pictures of them with the sun behind them, I like the effect. Funny how attached to this field I’ve become. Sure hope this all works out – for all the bragging I’ve done over the years on our improved seed products.

The SucraSEED is getting pretty mature, and in a normal year it would be about time to let some cattle graze lightly, but this is no normal year. Our average annual rainfall is somewhere between 34-36 inches. Since January we’ve had over 30 inches and since planting, over 55 inches. Yikes. Still lots of standing water and still thankful for boots.

The tops of the plants look lush and green, but if you open them up and look down into the base – the bottoms of the stalks are yellowy and washed out.

I’m still seeing a lot of roots at the surface of the soil. Jerry says this is the plant’s way of surviving – by growing up instead of down, in order to get oxygen and breathe.

Since the cattle had been so intrigued earlier I thought I’d be smart and try an experiment. I hand pulled a large amount of FIXatioN clover and a large amount of the grasses and laid them in piles about two feet apart. Wouldn’t it be neat to capture on video any preference they might have to the different species? Well, they’d gotten bored while I was messing around in this pasture and wouldn’t come over to where I’d laid the piles, regardless of how much I waved my arms and talked to them. So,…I gathered my camera, gear, my tripod and the mounds of forage – trying to keep them separate, and I went to them. After a bit of trepidation, they went for it, but alas, they just ate both of them up and stared at me with the stems hanging from their mouths. They seemed to like it.

The few moments of sun sure felt good.

May 8, 2017 – Dad and I have been trying to convince Leonard to move the cattle into the new pasture. It really needs to be grazed. The sun has been showing itself more and although the ground hasn’t dried as much as we’d like, the forage quality of the grass is pretty rank at this point. The grass is throwing seed heads and the stems are stiff. All the energy is now in the very tips of the seed heads.

Since Leonard hasn’t shown up yet, dad and I decided we’d try to do it ourselves. I positioned myself in the tall grass in the pasture near the opening, thinking it would be an awesome opportunity to capture video of the cattle rushing in like starved beasts devouring the new forage. It took dad awhile to get them rounded up, they were well conditioned to the electric fence that had kept them out since the planting. I stood up thinking I could help and ended up spooking the entire lot who bolted and scattered back into the field where they’d come from. Try again. Leonard and his son arrive and we finally get them into the field, but it wasn’t easy. Certainly not the wonderful, idyllic, great-for-marketing footage I was hoping to get. In hindsight, I could have picked a better spot to shoot from – further away from the opening.

After collecting my gear and brushing off my ego, dad offered to take me deeper into the pasture and follow the cattle as they explored the new surroundings. He told me that they’d eaten their fill earlier that day when a feed trailer with grain had been placed in the original field. Despite this, and maybe from the stress of running all around while being herded into this new pasture, they were munching away. I guess it wasn’t a complete lost opportunity.

May 26, 2017 – Tonight was my niece’s graduation party, held at the farm. Dad called and wanted to make sure I wore clothes to visit the pasture, he wanted to show me something. There were rows that had been munched down and he wanted me to bring the camera. He seemed pretty excited.

When I got there we jumped on the four-wheeler and headed out. He said he could finally tell where we’d seeded because the FIXatioN was flowering making it stand out. He also said the crank seeder didn’t quite spread the seed as evenly as we’d hoped. He started pointing out the ‘rows’, and then pointing down into the plant material.

The cattle had done a job on the clover. Dad said they ‘really went for it, and ate it like candy’. We stopped in the middle of the field and you could clearly see at least 4 rows where the clover had been chewed to the ground and much of the grass had been left.

We drove through one of the other fields where we’d sprinkled some of the leftover seed on that misty day in October. You could see the distinctive FIXatioN flowers. I’d long given up on any of the seed ‘taking’ in that field and was ecstatic to see it there. The buttercup flowers and poa seed heads were also there, but I’m happy with baby steps.

While I wouldn’t recommend our planting method or loose management strategy – if my Dad is happy, I’m happy. All is well with the world.

*Side note – no fertilizer, herbicide or insecticides were used at any time. The plants were left to sink or swim. Fortunately, they swam. Literally.

For a printable, PDF version of this blog, click below.

Diary of a Father Daughter pasture experiment.PDF

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FIXatioN in Spring Sown Pasture Mixes

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Every Spring it seems like that I am asked about the utilization of FIXatioN in pasture mixes that are Spring sown. Should they be incorporated in Spring sown mixes? 

The answer is absolutely! While the grower will not realize the same amount of Spring growth as they would when Fall sown, FIXatioN will contribute to the amount of forage produced. FIXatioN will go to flower in the early summer, however every blossom is capable of producing over 100 seeds. Seeds that will lay dormant on the soil until the moisture conditions become optimal for them to sprout and regrow. It is never too early to begin creating a productive seed bank in the pasture. This seed bank will allow FIXatioN to fill in bare areas in the soil. After the initial seeding it may be necessary to apply more FIXatioN on occasion to establish a good seed bank from which the plant can re-establish.

I often hear statements that the farmer wants a clover that is active in the summer. While it is nice to see clover in the pasture, it is important to note that ideally you want maximum clover growth when you are realizing maximum grass growth. That way we balance the ration by having a high crude protein source, clover, when we have a high fiber source. Too much white clover can actually be detrimental to a pasture, as the thick shallow root system can intercept summer moisture before it gets to the roots of the grasses. Annual clovers do not compete with the grasses during moisture deficits, thereby improving the health and stand of the grasses. If utilizing a re-seeding clover like FIXatioN, the seeds formed in early summer will be there in the Fall to begin the growth cycle again.

From a nitrogen standpoint annual clovers are superior to white clover. White clover, a perennial, retains much of the nitrogen that it produces for its own needs. Very little nitrogen is contributed by the rooting system to surrounding plants. This is easily confirmed by observing the grass growing next to white clover. If it was the recipient of excess nitrogen you would see an increase of dark green forage similar to that at the edge of a manure deposit. The majority of the nitrogen benefit from white clover pasture is from the forage cycling thru the livestock. Annual clovers also release nitrogen from the forage passing thru the animal, but unlike their perennial relatives when the annual clover ends its life cycle all of the nitrogen stored in its unconsumed forage is released back into the soil.

After the annual clover decomposes, the soil is left with channels created by the decayed tap roots. These tap roots can break up the hard pan, allowing the rooting structure of the grasses to follow the channels formed by the clover deeper into the soil, potentially improving summer performance. These channels also allow for nutrients and oxygen to travel deeper into the soil, improving microbial health.

When it comes to pasture improvement diversity is important, both above and below the surface of the soil. One more advantage of utilizing re-seeding annual clovers like FIXatioN is that once it has set seed you can spray your pasture with a broadleaf herbicide to remove the detrimental weeds thereby keeping your pasture lush and highly productive.

FIXatioN Balansa Clover is the perfect complement to any pasture mix no matter when the seeding time is. When utilizing FIXatioN in your pasture mix I would recommend that you not exceed 10% of the mix with 5% being ideal in most perennial pastures. Balansa Clover is considered a low bloat risk as there has not been any confirmed instances of bloat globally.

For a printable, PDF version of this blog, click below.

Fixation in Spring Sown Pasture Mixes.PDF