We received another question from a farmer, this time about planting pastures: “What are the best methods of establishing blue buffalo grass and bristle grass?” Our consultant advises: “Plant the grass seed in a fine, firm, well-prepared seed bed. Culti vate the soil from 200-300cm deep in the autumn of the previous year, or as early as possible in the planting season, and incorporate lime if needed.
“The soil should be worked lightly to conserve as much moisture as possible, while controlling weed populations and preparing a good seedbed. The seedbed should be fine, firm and weed-free at planting. Super phosphate may be worked in during the final land prep to raise the soil’s phosphorous content to about 15-20mg/kg.
“Row planting is recommended, and the seed must be well pressed down, or rolled. This is especially advisable in areas of low rainfall, or of low production potential. The width of the inter-row space depends on the environmental conditions. In areas where the rainfall is between 400mm and 450mm an inter-row space of 200cm is fine. In regions where the rainfall is 600mm or more the inter-row space may be narrowed to 60cm.
“A maize planter, the tractor wheel method, or the specially developed blue buffalo planter may be used for row planting. Do not plant the seed at a depth greater than 5cm as this will slow germination and weaken the pasture establishment.
“The tractor-wheel method employs the use of plastic pipes to spread the grass seed in front of a tractor tyre that tramps it down firmly to ensure sufficient soil-to-seed contact for maximum germination. The pipe is usually mounted vertically in front of the rear wheel, through which the seed is poured through slowly. “The distance between the two wheels of a tractor is usually 1.2m.
“Another method is to mount seed bins on the tractor. The bins are equipped with motor drives, which ensure that seed is spread evenly in the wheel track.
Prof Chris Dannhauser is a specialist independent veld and pasture management consultant.