Methods of pasture establishment
There are several methods of pasture establishment but the most common are:
Broadcasting (by hand or machine) or seed drilling
Manual broadcasting can be done on small scale where the area is small. Machines are used where the land is extensive. Fertilizer spreaders can be used to help in broadcasting. Make sure the fertilizer spreader is clean without fertilizer in it to avoid injuring the seeds.
After broadcasting, seeds should be lightly covered with soil. Covering can be done either by dragging tree branches behind a tractor or use of Cambridge rollers in areas not prone to erosion.
Tandem or zigzag harrows tend to cover deeper and therefore used to cover deeper seeds. Homemade harrows like old rolls of barbed wire are also used.
Seeding using seed drill is usually the best because the seeds are covered naturally. Always have a carrier when using seed drill. Hairy seeds do not flow well in drill and therefore should be mixed with moist saw dust before drilling.
Oversowing or sod seeding
Oversowing is the improvement of an existing pasture by seeding the poor one with an improved pasture. The older grass should be mowed or grazed before seeding to improve germination. Older grass can also be burnt although this is not recommended because it can interfere with the soil fauna and flora.
Pasture is established under companion crops such as maize wheat, oat or barley. The aim is to reduce the number of operations to be undertaken. For example, in a 3 year lay one year will be for establishment and the next 2 years for production. But in undersowing all the 3 years are productive.
However this method is popular in temperate countries but not in Kenya. But if Africa is considered Kenya and Nigeria are leading.
The pastures are sown when for example maize is knee high and after second weeding. It is important to make sure there is no competition from weeds.
Some grasses do not produce viable seeds therefore establishment through vegetative means i.e. vegetative cuttings or root cuttings. Examples of such grasses are nappier grass, Kikuyu grass and Star grass.
Always include at least 2 nodes with viable auxiliary buds and root primordial. Root cuttings or sett should have 3 – 5 “stems”. Vegetative and root cuttings are sensitive to dry weather conditions therefore should not be planted in dry periods and only in rainy periods.
Strip off excess leaves because they dehydrate the vegetative parts rapidly.
Management of new stands
New upcoming crop should be in a weed-free place, protected against various pests (insects and diseases) therefore spray the plants occasionally against these. Weeding can be done through slashing or through use of herbicides. Slashing is tricky because unless weeds are taller it won’t work. Spraying will depend on the weed type. Broad leaved weeds are easy to control through selective herbicides.