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Northern Illinois Agriculture

University of Illinois Extension
frost seedings

Frost seeding

Posted by Russel Higgins -

For our livestock producers with pastures, mid-February to mid March is the time for frost seeding. Our preference is to wait until the snow cover leaves our pastures.

Frost seeding legumes and grasses is used to improve pasture yields or change forage species composition within the pasture. Frost seeding offers potential advantages, including the ability to establish forage in an undisturbed sod, a reduced need for labor and energy compared to conventional seeding methods, the ability to establish forages with minimum equipment investment. Frost seeding shortens the "non-grazing" period when compared to a total pasture renovation, and it is a method to maintain stands at productive levels with both grasses and legumes.

The key to successful frost seeding is seed to soil contact. There are several management practices that can be done to help insure good seed-soil contact. The first involves fall grazing management. Pastures should be closely grazed in the fall or winter to open stands and expose soil. Sod-type grasses like bluegrass are the most difficult to make successful frost seedings, especially where a thick layer of thatch covers the soil surface. In this situation you may consider moving livestock onto the pasture for a short duration, allowing animal hoof action to aid in "planting" the seed.

Are you, or your pastures a candidate for pasture renovation? Look for fields that need more plants per square ft. and have less than 30% legumes. Freezing and thawing is needed to give good seed soil contact for germination. Frost seeding is not as efficient as no-till more seed is needed per acre. Red clover is often considered the legume with the greatest success with frost seeding.

Additional frost seeding, pasture improvement and renovation information can be found on the University of Illinois TRAIL web site.

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I'm looking forward to Monday night when I visit Lee County and the participants in Annie's project.



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