Much of the terrain on Mr. Bishop’s dairy farm is hilly and stony, and by his own description, marginal. He wanted to improve the quality of his hillside pastures, but he wanted to do so with minimal use of equipment, the land being simply too steep and erosive to admit of cultivation. He hoped that he would be able to accomplish this by “frost-seeding,” i.e. planting frost-tolerant seeds toward the end of winter, when the freezing and thawing of the soil would incorporate the seed.
His original plan called for comparison of three variables: 1) lime vs. no lime, 2) rolling the surface after seeding vs. no rolling, and 3) seed rate. When he found the soil pH was 6.2, however, he dropped the idea of liming, and redesigned the experiment to compare pasture species. The new design called for six ½ acre plots planted as follows:
1. white clover, rolled
2. red clover, rolled
3. trefoil, rolled
4. ryegrass, rolled
5. orchardgrass, not rolled
6. control—not seeded, not rolled.
All plots were seeded March 19, 1997. Plots 1, 3, 4, and 5 received 10 pounds of seed each; plot 2 received 15 pounds.
Mr. Bishop reports that the clovers germinated best and produced the thickest stands toward the beginning of the 1997 season. He also reports that the stand of ryegrass suffered badly from the depradations of wild turkeys. He did graze the plots some, but as the summer went on, and a serious drought set in, all the plots “burned up,” and the pasture on them appeared about the same in quality as the control, which is to say bad. They did not recover from this drought—stand establishment in 1998 was very poor on all plots.
Mr. Bishop believes that he was not able to give the practice of frost-seeding a fair try, because of the drought, the effect of which may well have been compounded by the presence of a shallow and ubiquitous hard pan. He still believes that in a year of normal rainfall the practice might work well.