Redfearn Says Careful Pasture Management Key to Drought Damage RecoveryFri, 27 Apr 2012 14:42:35 CDT
Warm late winter temperatures and abundant rainfall have given pastures a head start with early growth. OSU's Dr. Daren Redfearn tells us what to expect from summer pastures this year:
We have observed a very early green up this spring for nearly all of our summer pastures. Some of these may have even come out of dormancy as early as late February. In most cases, this is 3 or 4 weeks earlier than normal.
Likewise, those Old World bluestem and weeping lovegrass pastures have begun growth and many of the seed in the seed bank have germinated and emerged. Caution must be used with chemical weed control and grazing management if these pastures are expected to fully recover.
Overall, it is too early to determine the success of summer pasture recovery until we have completed at least the first part of the growing season. In years with more normal rainfall, we generally observe the majority of the production from our introduced grass pastures will have occurred by early- to mid-July. Thankfully, we have had above average precipitation in many areas, as well as above-average temperatures. However, the early grass growth has slowed in many areas due to cooler temperatures that are more normal for this time of year.
Proper weed control is still the most important recovery issue. In addition to the numerous broadleaf weeds that are actively growing, there are many acres of summer pastures that were successfully over-seeded with small grains or annual ryegrass. Since they summer grasses began their growth early this year, it is important to reduce the competition from these as well. This is best accomplished through haying and grazing. However, do not eliminate mowing as an option.
Pasture fertility needs should also be addressed. This is especially true if soil P is deficient. It is critical to remember the importance of proper soil testing.
Due to the early growth, it is important that grazing be delayed at least until the summer grasses have 5 to 6 inches of new growth and are actively growing. The importance of delayed grazing has been addressed in other Plant and Soil Sciences Newsletter articles.
For severely drought-damaged pastures, continued recovery is the only reasonable option. These pastures may require 1 year or longer to fully recover from the effects of the drought.
For moderately drought-damaged pastures, the focus should center on recovery during the early part of the growing season followed by management for production and utilization as the pastures begin to show signs of recovery. These pastures may require 2 to 3 months to fully recover from the effects of the drought.
Slightly drought-damaged pastures can be managed normally focusing primarily on increasing production potential. These pastures should fully recover in 2 months or less from the effects of the drought.
The most important thing to remember is that any forage response to management is going to depend almost entirely on moisture. However, moisture alone cannot cure the long-term drought effects on plants. Proper management is the best long-term approach to recovery.
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