Nurse Your Forage Seeding For Success

I caught up with Jeff Rasawehr of Center Seeds the other day to learn about why he likes to add "nurse crops" when he's seeding in a new pasture or hay field. A nurse crop for forage plantings is an annual that gives forage plants an extra boost as they're getting started. The nurse crop holds soil in place, cuts down on weed pressure, and provides a little shade for the young forage seedlings that might be harmed by excessive sunlight.  Nurse crops can also power up yields on the first harvest, providing extra feed when the forage crops haven't gotten going full force yet. Jeff likes starting a new stand of forage with oats as a nurse crop because of their ability to stimulate mycorrhizae in the soil. Oats provide some additional benefits too. Oat roots boost the interaction of different beneficial fungi  when they grow, stimulating the rhizosphere. The rhizosphere is that soil area right near the roots, and when it's enhanced, it increases nutrition to your young forage plants, getting them off to a successful start. Oats are also a good choice because they don't outcompete your intended forage stand. Plant them as a nurse crop, and they will grow, but they disappear when your stand starts coming in strong. The only other nurse crop Jeff really recommends is barley. In the fall, he suggests planting a winter barley, also sometimes called "fall barley." In t

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