There are over 18 million acres/7.3m ha of temporary and permanent grassland in the UK which equates to 42.2% of the utilisable agricultural area and making it by far, our largest single crop group. At present, the reseeding rate is estimated to be as little as 2 – 4% per annum meaning many growers are losing out on significant grass yield potential.
Now that spring is here, it is important to get out into the fields to carry out sward assessments, if you have not already done so. Decisions taken now can impact the performance of a long-term ley for its whole lifespan. Keep monitoring and measuring your grass weekly against your spring rotation planning.
Prioritising soil sampling is the fundamental first step, which should be kept up to date, with soil samples no older than 5 years. We would recommend soil sampling every 3-5 years and in England and Wales this is compulsory. Recent soil sampling reports state that only 9% of UK grassland soils are at target levels for phosphorus (P) & potassium (K), which are two of the most fundamental nutrients for crop establishment and development. pH should be above 6.2 and the calcium level should be no less than 2000ppm.
A healthy soil will establish and support healthy, highly productive swards of grass and the results from soil sampling will help you make the best use of nutrients in your grassland management.
Next, like condition scoring livestock will help to make appropriate rationing decisions, assessing the existing state of all your fields will make forage planning much easier. Getting out into the field and looking at soil structure, species presence, clover percentage and fertility indicators can highlight a poorer performing field and allow you to prioritise this for remedial action before it gets worse. The Barenbrug Good Grass Guide is a free tool that can help with scoring grass and can be used as a field record. Ranking all fields from Index 1 - in need of complete replacement, to Index 5 - to be maintained, will highlight those which are a priority for attention over the coming months.