By: Terry Kowalchuk, P.Ag, MSc Provincial Specialist, Forage Crops
The Brown soil zone of Saskatchewan has thousands of acres of crested wheatgrass stands that would benefit from rejuvenation. Many of these stands are on marginal soils and were seeded with alfalfa, hayed for several years and then used for early-season pasture as productivity declined. Options for rejuvenation include sod seeding legumes, fertilizing or breaking. Costs for each of these methods can vary greatly and each comes with its own set of pros and cons.
Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, in collaboration with the Western Beef Development Centre and the University of Saskatchewan, has recently conducted a review of past research on rejuvenation of crested wheatgrass stands in southwest Saskatchewan. The review included an economic comparison of each rejuvenation method. A technical bulletin based on this work will be available this fall and a farmer-friendly version of the bulletin will be developed by the Ministry of Agriculture.
General economic analysis of the research data favours sod seeding; however, the calculations are sensitive to the hay prices and other factors, so individual analysis at the farm level is still the best way to assess costs. An economic calculator will be available to help agrologists work with producers to determine their own costs for each practice.
Pasture rejuvenation can be a risky venture. The technical bulletin will provide the basis for more sound rejuvenation decisions.