Phalaris is a small seed and is best sown into cultivated soil, devoid of large clods. Precise ground preparation and fineness of seed bed is critical to success as phalaris is quite slow to establish. A successful establishment will ensure longevity of the stand. The use of a roller will improve the soil to seed contact and therefore increase the speed of germination.
Yield potential and successful establishment is strongly correlated with the level of fertility in the soil. It is recommended that before sowing phalaris, a soil test is taken to determine any deficiencies or restraints such as deficient phosphorus or low pH (acidic). Ideally, soil pH between 4.8 and 7.5 will ensure good forage yield but will also increase the lifespan of the stand. Once the soil fertility is known, any deficiencies can be rectified before sowing commences.
Reducing weeds in the seed bed reduces competition with the newly sown phalaris. Preventing weeds setting seed the season before is key to reducing this burden in the future. Where there is significant weed burden it is worth preparing 1-2 years in advance of sowing phalaris, this can be done through cropping, hay or silage cutting whereby weeds are unable to set seed. A knock-down herbicide should be used prior to sowing to ensure no competition during phalaris establishment.
At sowing, it is important to apply a sowing fertiliser such as MAP or DAP, which contains both phosphorus (essential for root development) and nitrogen (essential for leaf growth). Sowing fertiliser provides the phalaris stand with sufficient nutrition to establish successfully. Once established, annul maintenance fertiliser should be applied to replace what has been removed through grazing livestock or hay cutting. The use of superphosphate, muriate of potash or a combination of both will help to replace major nutrient deficiencies. Urea applications during winter can also help to increase growth rate but stock withholding periods should be adhered to (see animal health section).
Insects and slugs can cause significant damage to newly sown phalaris pastures. It is essential to monitor for insects prior and immediately after the germination of the pasture. If pests are present in large numbers, it may be necessary to apply an insecticide. The use of insecticide coated seed can also help with the prevention of insect damage from sap sucking insects such as Red Legged Earth Mites. Ensure insecticide label guidelines are followed strictly.
Phalaris is a small seed and therefore should be sown shallow. A sowing depth of 5-15mm is adequate and the use of a roller will help to improve seed to soil contact.
Phalaris is a slow to establish species and therefore should be allowed plenty of time to establish. Only very light grazing in the first year during spring is acceptable to encourage tillering but otherwise grazing should be avoided in the first year especially when phalaris is flowering as this is when dormant underground buds are forming for long term persistence. Suited to rotational grazing but can also be set-stocked. Hay cutting should not occur in the first two years of establishment.
All phalaris cultivars contain alkaloids which are present in higher concentrations usually around the first six weeks of new growth (after the autumn break). Newer cultivars are bred with lower levels of these alkaloids. The alkaloids act a defence for the plant as it emerges from dormancy. These alkaloids are toxic, more noticeably in sheep than cattle and cause both disorders: Phalaris staggers and Sudden death. The use of cobalt supplement can help prevent phalaris staggers but not sudden death. Grazing management can prevent both these disorders. Do not place hungry stock on new fresh growth and be aware of stress factors on new pasture growth such as drought or frost. Allow at least 6 weeks of growth before putting the stock on or alternatively set stock the paddock before the Autumn break. The use of nitrogen fertiliser to increase growth of the phalaris can also cause animal health issues such as nitrate poisoning. If the pasture has not had sufficient time or sunlight to convert nitrate (from urea) into proteins, livestock eating the pasture can suffer from poisoning effects. After urea has been spread it is good practice to wait three to four weeks before grazing again. This will allow time for the nitrates to assimilate into proteins, but also the leaves will grow larger in this time and dilute the nitrates which are often found in high concentration in young fresh leaves. Provide roughage upon re-introduction this will also help combat any nitrate issues in the rumen.