The first step to a productive perennial forage stand is strong seedling establishment. Before the seeding equipment enters the field, several factors must be considered.
The timing of seed harvest is one of the most important decisions a grass seed grower will make. Grasses need 20-30 days after flowering for seeds to properly mature. This will vary because the period of flowering and seed development lasts from several days to two weeks. As a result, seed heads emerge at different times, which causes uneven ripening. Hot, dry weather shortens the ripening time. Cool, moist conditions delay seed maturity. Grasses grown under irrigation tend to have a higher ash content, which can result in more shattering than experienced with dryland produced grasses. The ideal time to swath is when seed is at the medium to hard dough stage and still firmly attached. Moisture testing of the entire seed head (35-50%) is also a useful indicator of when to swath. Most grasses will hold their seed for 10-15 days, but the time from medium dough to seed shatter can be as short as three or four days.