Perennial pasture establishment tips to aid in persistence

Sowing a perennial pasture is something that needs careful planning and attention to detail, especially if you want it to persist for the length of time required to cover your investment of time and money. Following is a list of tips that should help you improve your new pastures productivity and increase longevity beyond its typical life. 

Established Hummer tall fescue in Walcha, NSW
  • First and foremost, plan ahead – your window for planting is often small. Have the seed, fertiliser and chemical on hand. Last minute decisions can often lead to poor pasture establishement and may not fairly represent your chosen variety.


  • Use a break crop or two to get control of hard to kill perennial weeds. Use Italian ryegrass, crops like wheat, canola or oats, or even forage brassicas as part of your rotation. Just spraying out old pasture and sowing new pasture without break crops will lead to quicker reversion back to undesirable species.


  • Use label rates for herbicides and insecticides, as cutting corners here can lead to failures later.


  • Plant tall fescue, phalaris and cocksfoot into soils warmer than 12°C, as this will increase their speed of establishment. Slow establishment allows undesirable species like winter grass and barley grass to establish and out-compete your desirable species.


  • Choose KickStart® treated seed to give the new pasture the best possible chance to establish. Early establishement pests, such as redlegged earth mite can devastate untreated seed.





  • Don’t drive too fast when drilling, just like on the road – speed kills. The faster you drive the drill around the paddock, the more inconsistent the seed placement will be, typically meaning a patchy germination.


  • Use starter fertiliser with nitrogen and phosphate such as MAP or DAP. Use a drill that can place this fertiliser below the seed so it has access to the phosphate.


  • Spray weeds when they are no bigger than the size of a 50c coin. The smaller the weeds, the softer the chemical you can use, which means better legume survival and less competition for your establishing pasture,  as shown in the image 1 and image 2 below. 



Image 1: Too soon to spray
Image 1: Too soon to spray
Image 2: Ideal size to spray
Image 2: Ideal size to spray
  • Graze very lightly, with a light stock class like lambs or calves and only when it passes the ‘pull test’. The pull test is when you can pull upwards on the grass and the leaf breaks without pulling the plant out of the ground. These light grazings will promote tillering, which increases ground cover and plant strength. Examples of the pull test are shown in the image 3 and image 4 below.


  • Do not let your perennial pastures get out of control as you quickly lose quality, plant density, legume content and production. Grazing management is one of the key tools in your control, so make sure you get it right.



Image 3: Pluck test failed.
Image 3: Pluck test failed
Image 4: Pluck test passed
Image 4: Pluck test passed


As you can see, there are many tips to help new perennial pastures persist and a lot of it has to do with the establishment phase. Watch out for our next e-newsletter, which will focus on grazing management of perennial pastures and how you can maximise their productivity.


Talk to your local retailer today to ensure you have all your fertiliser, chemical and seed requirements available to help fit with your planting intentions.

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