Progressive Forage Grower just published a great piece on smart seed selection.
When selecting your seed for this year, don’t roll the dice, they advise. Seed is an investment that has to be made wisely, and you want to be sure that not only are you buying the highest quality seed, but also investing in the right crop for your system. Don’t skimp, the article suggests, since seed makes up only 7 percent of all variable costs of production over the life of a forage stand, and spending a little extra for quality may cost a little more but be worth it to you in the long run (and the extra cost is minor in the context of all your input costs).
At King’s, we sell only top-quality seed, but the article mentions a few good hints to keep in mind whenever you are shopping for seed.
VNS (variety not stated) seed, while sometimes the only option in a given species (especially as supplies get tight industry-wide), can produce lower yields. If you have a choice, go with the stated variety. You won’t know the genetic origin of your VNS seed, and the genetics may not be the most up-to-date. While most VNS seed may well perform fine, there’s less risk in buying seed of known identity and origin. Newer genetics are also often more resistant to disease (but just because it is a variety does not necessarily mean it has “newer” genetics).
Look at the tag for a recent (within the last year) germ test, a high germ percentage, high seed purity, and very low other seed content.
When formulating your own mixture or purchasing a mixture, select species that have a history of performing well in your area. It’s great to experiment with new species, but test them on a small area first to see how they do with your soils and management. If you’re seeding a pasture, make sure all the species are grazing tolerant for the animal that will be grazing (horses tend to graze much harder than cattle, for example).
Consider maturity differences among species, and look for compatible maturities of the species you intend to seed together. For example, a grass planted with alfalfa should be later-maturing to match alfalfa’s maturity.
Avoid anti-quality factors, such as harmful endophytes. Endophytes help protect the plant from stress, but can be toxic to animals, causing illness and reduced weight gain. Nontoxic, or beneficial endophytes are often used to make the plant more resilient to stress, but will not harm the animal. This can be found in products like our Barenbrug Baroptima E34, a soft-leaf tall fescue with a beneficial endophyte to improve the agronomics of the grass, and is an excellent choice for hay or grazing.
Perennial forages should be the base of a forage system, but annuals have an important place as well, adding flexibility and yield hikes to the rotation at less productive times of year.
For feeding livestock, look for crops with characteristics that are indicators of quality such as the BMR (brown midrib) characteristic. King’s sells Alta sorghum, sorghum-sudan, and sudangrass products, and most are BMR gene 6.
If you are unsure about appropriate seed selection for your farm this year, a King’s rep will be happy to assist you. We are invested in your success this year and every year.