AUBURN, Ala.— With a little rain, comes a lot of optimism. Alabama Cooperative Extension System Regional Agent, Alex Tigue, said calls are coming in with many questions about planting late winter annuals.
“Planting winter annuals this late in the season is a huge risk,” Tigue said. “Late planting (right now) can work, but planting after February 15 can also work and may be slightly less risky.”
Timing Dictates What to Plant
Tigue said ryegrass may be the best option, no matter when you plan to plant.
Rye is the most cold tolerant, so for those planting heading into December, rye may be the best option. For those looking to plant in late February, oats would be the best option. By your best estimates, wait until the risk of frost is over.
“With high risk comes high costs,” Tigue said. “It may be better to just feed the cows and take a less risky approach.”
Producers will have to decide what is best for their operation. When planting late winter annuals, consider the cost of seed, fertilizer, fuel, labor, and other costs, as well as the risk involved.
Tigue said the bottom line is planting winter annuals at this point is very risky. There is too much risk involved to wholeheartedly recommend planting now.
With both of these options, wait to graze until the grass is at least 6 inches tall.
“Give the grass a chance to grow roots,” he said. “Yields are going to be below average in these scenarios, no matter what. If the grass is overgrazed early, it never stands a chance.”
In this scenario, all components need to be perfect. Soil fertility and weather conditions need to be right. If a poor stretch of growing conditions follow shortly after a good rain, Tigue said producers could see complete stand loss.
Tigue pointed producers to two publications, shared by the University of Georgia, for specific information dealing with late winter annuals. “Late Plantings of Winter Annual Forages” can be found here. Click here for “It might rain. What should I do?”
Drought meetings are taking place across the state. To find one near you, click here.