Benefits of undersowing maize with grass

There has been renewed interest in undersowing maize with grass, as producers look for a solution to reduce the soil erosion and run-off that often occurs if maize-growing land is left bare during the winter.

Dairy Nutrition
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The traditional mindset has been that undersowing maize negatively impacts yield and performance due to maize’s low tolerance to competition. But with the correct establishment timings and management, undersowing maize with grass can be successful and avoid compromising maize performance.

This approach also provides a useful source of additional forage, as well as delivering a range of soil-health benefits. These include reduced levels of nitrogen leaching, improved soil structure, and less soil erosion.

Grass mixture selection is critical for successful undersowing, with a mix of tall fescue and cocksfoot a good choice if grass is sown at the same time as maize. Alternatively, to reduce competition and allow maize more time to establish, a mix of Italian catch crop can be sown at the six-to-eight-leaf stage at a rate of between 7kg and 10kg per hectare. Higher levels could create competition for the maize crop.

Undersowing maize crops should only be considered when there are no plans for post-harvest cover crop establishment, or cultivations during the winter months. Producers should also be wary of sowing grass too soon, as doing so can lead to rapid early grass growth and excessive competition with the main maize crop.

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