Spring Termination of Hay Land - Frequently Asked Questions

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 When can hayland be taken out of production?
Traditionally forage stands have been terminated in the fall. The main advantage of fall termination is the ability to establish a good seedbed with tillage or, in the case of direct seeding, allowing the sod root system to decompose.

Adverse weather conditions, limited re-growth and time limitations may restrict the ability to take hay stands out of production in the fall. As a result hay stands are terminated in the spring. While spring termination of hay land is an option, producers need to be aware of a number of factors that will impact its success.

What are the factors to consider when terminating a hay field in the spring?
The following is a list of factors that should be evaluated when considering spring termination of hay land.

Seeding date - Spring termination of hay land will delay the date of seeding. In order for herbicide applications to be effective, sufficient plant material must be present. Grasses should be at the three to four leaf stage and legumes need to be actively growing to allow for good herbicide coverage. Seeding will also need to be delayed three to five days after the herbicide application to allow thorough translocation into the plant. Allowing for these factors results in seeding delays of 2 - 3 weeks as compared to a fall terminated stand.

Soil moisture - Another factor that must be managed properly is soil moisture. In many areas of the province conservation of spring moisture is essential for crop establishment. Direct seeding into sod will retain available soil moisture that would be lost if multiple tillage operations were used to prepare a seedbed. Even with direct seeding it is important to recognize that available soil moisture will be reduced as the forage species grows to an appropriate stage for spraying. Moisture conditions at the time of seeding must be evaluated.

Herbicide requirements to terminate hay-stands - A high rate of glyphosate (720 grams active ingredient per acre) should be applied to the hay stand once sufficient growth is present. Although a glyphosate and 2,4D mixture can be used for control of legumes in the spring, it should be noted that a 14-day interval between application and seeding is required.

Crop selection - A number of factors will influence the type of annual crop to be seeded.
Soil to seed contact - With sod seeding the most consistent results have occurred with cereal crops (barley, oats) as compared to a crop with small seed size (canola). The larger seed size associated with cereals allows seeds to be placed beneath the thatch layer into soil where good soil to seed contact occurs.
Crop competitiveness – Management practices that enhance crop competition is important if re-growth of forage species does occur after crop emergence. Some of the components that influence the competitiveness of a crop include seed quality, seeding rate, seeding depth, crop height and fertilizer placement.
Alternative use of crop – Late seeded crops will have a shorter growing season to produce a grain crop. In these situations seeding a crop that can be used for silage or green feed offers a viable end use for these fields.

In-crop herbicide requirements - Herbicide options used to control re-growth of forage species depends on the forage species present and crop type. Legume re-growth in cereal crops is best managed using a clorpyralid based product. Grass re-growth in cereal crops is more problematic. In-crop grass herbicides are directed at annual grassy weeds and do not have significant action on perennial grasses. In situations where re-growth of perennial grasses occurs a pre-harvest application of glyphosate will be required.

Soil fertility - Fertility status of the soil should also be evaluated. Nutrient levels are commonly deficient on older hay stands and needs to be addressed when seeding an annual crop. Collecting a soil sample to determine fertility requirements for the intended crop is recommended.

Links to additional information:

Removing Forages From the Rotation in a Direct Seeding System
Tips for Removing Forages From a Direct Seeding Program
No-till Seeding of Annual Crops into Alfalfa/Grass Forages
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For more information about the content of this document, contact Mark Cutts.
This document is maintained by Lorraine McAllister.
This information published to the web on April 28, 2008.
Last Reviewed/Revised on June 8, 2012.