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Planting Smooth Brome Pastures in Fall

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This would be a good year to plant smooth brome pastures, with good soil moisture levels now in eastern Kansas. If you start planning now, you should have plenty of time to have the soil tested, add lime and nutrients if necessary, and adequately prepare the seedbed so that you can have 20 years or more of productive forage from your pasture.

Planting dates
Smooth brome can be planted in late summer, early fall, winter or early spring

Winter and spring plantings are not recommended on droughty claypan soils because smooth brome will not survive if a hot, dry summer follows planting. Cool-season grasses are established most successfully with late summer or fall plantings. Adequate time must be allowed for summer tillage and soil moisture storage.

Good weed control is essential. Germinating weeds encouraged by summer tillage can be destroyed by light discing or other tillage operations. Tillage should be done no later than mid-August for a late August or early September planting. When moisture is available, several tillage operations may be needed to control weed growth and thus conserve soil moisture. Excess tillage may increase moisture loss.

No-till seeding of brome has emerged as a viable planting method, if you do not need to incorporate lime or phosphorus to a 6-inch depth prior to planting. With no-till seeding, existing weeds are controlled by use of nonselective or residual herbicides.

Seedbed preparation
Proper seedbed preparation is essential for a good stand. The ideal seedbed is firm, moist, free of weeds, and adequately fertilized and limed. Such a seedbed can be obtained by planning and using good techniques. Seedbed preparation on land suited for cultivation is relatively simple. For best results, minimize weed competition, obtain uniform seed distribution, plant shallow and evenly cover seed with soil. Many smooth brome pastures have been established on sites that cannot be adequately tilled because soil is too shallow and/or slopes are too steep. On these areas, little seedbed preparation is possible.

Lime Soil testing is essential to determine lime needs. Smooth brome will grow on moderately acid soils, but does best on near neutral pH soils. Because smooth brome stands can remain productive for 20 years or longer, correcting soil pH prior to seeding is essential. Needed lime should be added and thoroughly mixed to a soil depth of 6 inches as far ahead of planting as possible.

Nitrogen Figure 2 shows nitrogen recommendations for new seedings of smooth brome. Applying 30-40 pounds of nitrogen before seeding will help ensure vigorous establishment of brome. Nitrogen could be applied with needed phosphorous and potassium and incorporated prior to seeding or broadcast after planting.

Phosphorous and Potassium Soils in Kansas vary in levels of phosphorous and potassium present. A soil test is essential to determine requirements for these nutrients. Based on the soil test, addition of phosphorus and potassium will help establish smooth brome stands and ensure subsequent growth. Table 1 lists phosphorus and potassium recommendations for establishing new stands of smooth brome. Broadcasting and incorporating recommended rates of phosphorus and potassium during seedbed preparation is the most desirable practice. Phosphorus and potassium also may be applied with the drill at seeding. Avoid placing more than 20 pounds per acre of nitrogen plus potash in direct contact with the seed at planting.

Seed source and rate

High-quality seed of known germination and purity is important. Seeding rate depends on seed quality and method of seeding. When planting in a well prepared seedbed, 10–15 pounds of pure live seed (PLS) per acre is adequate. PLS refers to the amount of live seed of the desired species in a bulk lot. As an example, 100 pounds of bulk smooth brome seed that has a germination of 90 percent and a purity of 95 percent contains 85.5 pounds of pure live seed (100 x .90 x .95= 85.5).

If a poor seedbed exists, or if the seed will be broadcast with shallow incorporation with a harrow, seeding rates as high as 20 pounds PLS per acre may be required to obtain satisfactory stands. Higher seeding rates should be used when brome is broadcast on the surface and covered.

Method of seeding

Drilling smooth brome seed is the preferred method of seeding. Drilling ensures uniform seed distribution, accurate seeding rates, and uniform depth of coverage. For best results, smooth brome should be seeded ¼ to ½ inch deep.

Broadcasting brome on the surface with shallow incorporation can result in good stands of brome. Wheat can be used as a cover crop in establishing a stand of smooth brome. Start by broadcasting 20 pounds PLS of brome seed on the surface of soil prior to wheat seeding. As the wheat is drilled, the brome seed is covered. After the wheat is taken for hay or grain, the brome is usually established, provided sufficient moisture is available for both crops. This is a slow establishment method, but it is desirable on soils subject to erosion or to obtain a return from the field the first year.

Grazing new stands

New stands of brome should be protected from grazing until the grass is well established. With proper management, fall seeded smooth brome usually can be grazed the next year. Light grazing with haying at the bloom stage should be considered the first spring. Spring seedings should not be grazed until the following spring.

More information

For more information, see Smooth Brome Production and Utilization, K-State Research and Extension publication C402, at: http://bookstore.ksre.k-state.edu/pubs/c402.pdf

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Jessica Barnett
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Jessica.Barnett@jocogov.org