On average, only about 2.5% of potentially good grassland is reseeded annually.
It should be four times this level (10%), to bring our national grass production up to what is required for reaching the 2020 targets for dairy and beef production.
Most farmers now realise the value of reseeding, but the amount of ground reseeded any year largely depends on the weather and the economic situation on the farm.
Reseeding was back by about 50% in 2012, but it was normal in 2011. It increased 40% in 2010, following two years of bad weather.
There was a good opportunity in 2013 in late May and June, and also in the autumn, but the fodder and financial situations resulted in a cut back in reseeding.
Surprisingly, according to seed merchants, reseeding has been at a low level so far this year.
The weather in April and early May was generally too wet.
Then it got too dry very quickly, and mid-summer is not generally a good time to reseed (but was very successful in some areas this year).
If the weather comes good this autumn, there should be a big surge in reseeding to make up for the deficit in the last few years.
Otherwise, the situation regarding poor production on much of our Irish grassland will deteriorate further.
Need for Reseeding
Teagasc surveys indicate that many Irish pastures are producing 50% less than their potential. Based on recent research by Moorepark researcher, Michael O’Donovan, there is huge variation in grass dry matter production on farms. He says that there is up to 50% difference between farms, and 60% within farms, and the key factor is the level of perennial ryegrass within pastures.
Of course, poor soil fertility, soil type, and poor management, will also significantly reduce grass production, as well as utilisation. Over 50% of soil samples are deficient in P, K, and lime.
Not only will pastures with low ryegrass content produce poorly, but they will be 25% less responsive to nutrients. Low lime status also reduces the response to fertilisers.
The majority of the differences in production between pastures are in the early part of the year, up to May.
Reseeding Never More Important
With pressure on farmers to increase production and efficiency, and the high price of fertilisers and other rising costs, reseeding pastures with a low level of perennial ryegrass has become more important than ever.
Farmers cannot afford to be applying fertiliser on poor pastures that give a poor response.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved