Renewing swards or increasing pasture diversity in spring?

3 May 2023

Focus on a few important agronomy management practices, is the advice from Jim Clark, Carlisle-based agronomist with Hutchinsons.

Against a backdrop of rising input costs, farmers need to look at maximising the output from their grassland by focusing on a few agronomy management practices. This means looking at grass more as an arable crop, such as creating a long-term plan for both reseeding and controlling weeds and putting together a soil health plan.

Walk your grassland

The most important step is often the first, and managing grassland is no different. Start by walking the grass and really look at its condition. Take note of the cover across the field, the weed burden, particularly in relation to docks, and any poaching or compaction. Also take some soil samples to check your pH, P and K levels.

Poached and compacted soils carry a higher weed burden. Chickweed can be a particular issue, but docks are a major problem this spring as a result of a milder winter and stock out-wintering for longer causing bare soil. Docks love open ground.

Weed control

Choose grass varieties with the weed burden and herbicide options in mind. If you’re including clover in the sward, many dock and chickweed herbicides will knock it out, so plan ahead when reseeding. If fields have a particularly high weed burden, sow a short-term or different crop for a few years to control the weeds before sowing clover and herbal leys.

Some weed control herbicides are much kinder to the grass than others. To prevent a check in grass growth during spring, use a softer product based on Fluroxypyr.


When reseeding, seed-to-soil contact is essential for good establishment. Unless the soil is bare, avoid a scratch harrow air drill. When direct drilling seeds into the sward, temperature is vital. Cooler temps of 6-8C suit Italians and Westerwolds, but later perennials and clover need 9-10C.

Grass should be sown before applying slurry, particularly if going on in bands. It is much harder for the drills to penetrate the soil if drilled after slurry is applied which affects soil-to-seed contact.

Five Top Tips for grass management

  1. Look closely at your soil for compaction or poaching and plan any sward restoration work around it
  2. Know the weed burden of each field, and recognise docks need a specific management plan
  3. Choose grass varieties carefully, taking into account suitable herbicide programmes
  4. Choose the correct reseeding approach depending on sward quality and soil temperatures
  5. Time slurry applications must complement the best possible establishment

For more information contact Jim Clark on, mobile 07841 451383