Seeding Forages | Living the Country Life

Seeding Forages

Here are tips on seeding forages from Stephen K. Barnhart, Extension forage agronomist at Iowa State University.


Plant forages in the spring as soon as a suitable seedbed can be prepared, preferably before soil surfaces begin to dry out.

Prepare the site. Clear brush, fill gullies, and take soil samples to determine if and how much lime and fertilizer are needed. Keep in mind that it takes time to correct soil acidity. For best success, lime should be incorporated into the future seedbed a year before planting. If you must seed sooner, six months ahead is better than a few days or weeks prior to planting. 

Prepare the seedbed. Use a shallow plow or disk to remove any sod and weeds. Prepare seedbed and use a cultipacker or roller to firm soil before planting. Labeled herbicides may be useful for killing existing sod and weeds.

Select suitable species. Match species to desired use and growing conditions. Consult Extension for recommendations on seeding mixtures and rates.


The following are planter alternatives and recommendations when seeding.

  • Use a grassland drill with depth control and press wheels or a cultipacker roller-type seeder designed for small-seeded forage legumes or grasses. Plant seeds at ¼- to ½-inch depth.
  • Use a grain drill, equipped with small-seeded forage boxes, as a broadcast seeder for small-seeded legumes and grasses to prevent small forage seed from being planted too deeply. Cultipack or roll after seeding to firm.
  • Broadcast seed onto a firm, tilled seedbed and cultipack or roll for shallow seed coverage and seed-to-soil contact.
  • If planting no-till, use a no-till drill. Seeding depth should be less than ½ inch.
  • Use a cereal grain as a companion crop to help prevent erosion on sloping sites.
  • While seedlings are establishing, use frequent mowing or rotational grazing to limit competition for light, moisture, and plant nutrients.

Consider using preplant or postemerge herbicides, when labeled and appropriate, to help limit weed competition. Read and follow label instructions when using any pesticide.

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