homepage logo

Schmidt: Proper Soil Temperatures for Germination

By Staff | May 15, 2015

The minimum soil temperatures for germination of various crops or groups of crops is 40 degrees for spring wheat, durum, barley, canola, mustard, safflower, field peas and lentils; 45 degrees for oats, chickpeas, and sunflowers; 48 degrees for flax, and 50 degrees for corn, soybeans and dry beans. Optimal soil temperatures for germination and emergence are about 5 to 10 degrees warmer.

When seeding into soils at or near the minimum germination temperature for the crop, consider the use of basic seed treatment products. Seed planted into cooler soil will take longer to germinate and emerge, which means that it will have greater exposure to soil pathogens. If the soil is wet, this will also favor the activity of many soil-borne pathogens. Seed treatment will help provide protection against these pathogens, which can reduce stands due to seed rots and seedling blights. It will also help protect the seed or seedling if we run into adverse conditions following seeding which further delays emergence, such as a cool, wet spell or a late spring snow storm.

Most seed treatment products are registered for on-farm use, either for drill box application or to be applied in a mist or slurry with an auger treater. For information on current seed treatment products registered on all crops in North Dakota, check the 2015 North Dakota Field Crop fungicide Guide (Extension Circular PP-622) available at ag.ndsu.nodak.edu/extplantpath/. Always read the label carefully and follow the label directions for application procedures, rates, and specific diseases controlled.

Producers are reminded that information on soil temperatures can be obtained from the North Dakota Agricultural Weather Network (NDAWN) station. Additional information on soil temperatures such as the average daily soil temperatures and soil temperatures under turf can be obtained at the NDAWN website which is ndawn.ndsu.nodak.edu .

Soil temperatures at the Rugby station as of Sunday, May 10th were 46F under bare ground and 45F under turf.

Consider Early Grazing


Ranchers should not rush to turn livestock out on pasture in the spring. With the dry conditions this spring, forage production will be lower than average. Early spring grazing, especially under dry conditions, can be costly in terms of total forage production during the entire grazing season. Grazing before native grass plants reach the third-leaf stage causes a reduction in herbage production, which can reduce the stocking rate and animal performance.

In North Dakota, early cool-season native range grasses typically reach the third-leaf stage in late May or early June, which is the recommended time to begin grazing native range.

Many livestock operators will be looking for strategies to provide feed for their animals during May to replace harvested feeds, especially if moisture conditions remain low.

One alternative is grazing tame grass pastures in May. This is the best-case scenario because it eliminates damage to native rangeland and still allows producers to turn cattle out on pasture by early May. Tame grass pastures reach grazing readiness two to four weeks earlier than native range, permitting grazing in May.

If livestock producers do not have tame grass, alternatives to consider are to rent tame grass pasture for May or graze Conservation Reserve Program (CPR) lands that no longer are under contract in May and June.

Crested wheatgrass is the only tame grass ready to be grazed by early May. Smooth bromegrass and meadow bromegrass typically are grazing-ready by mid-May, while most CRP lands include grasses such as intermediate and pubescent wheatgrass that are ready for grazing by late May. Although these grasses may reach the third-leaf stage in late April and early May and are physiologically capable of handling grazing pressure, the herbage quantity is too low for high stocking rates.

Another alternative is to continue drylot feeding in May. Feeding hay in drylot situations would be the lowest cost scenario, compared with grazing native range in May before grasses reach grazing readiness. Grazing before sufficient grass growth has occurred can result in a loss of 45 to 60 percent of the potential forage production and a loss in meat production.

The ecological and economic impacts of grazing native rangeland prior to grazing readiness may take years to recover from if livestock are allowed to overgraze.

However, ranchers who have exhausted feed supplies and cannot purchase feed or do not have tame grass pastures established will need to put their livestock on native pasture. Here are factors to consider when selecting native pasture for early grazing:

Plant species composition – Select pastures that are heavily invaded by non-native cool-season grass such as smooth brome and Kentucky bluegrass rather than pastures dominated by native species. These non-native cool-season grasses start growing earlier in the season than native species and typically are ready to be grazed by mid-May. If pastures are not heavily invaded by non-native species, select pastures dominated by native cool-season species that reach the three-leaf stage in late May/early June instead of those dominated by native warm-season species that do not reach the three-leaf stage until late June/early July.

Ability of the plant community to recover from disturbance – A number of factors influence the community’s ability to recover from disturbance. Plant communities associated with soils that have a higher water-holding capacity and are in areas that receive additional water are better able to withstand drought conditions than communities on droughty soils. Similarly, native plant communities that contain a larger variety of species are better able to respond to disturbance.

Grazing management history of native pastures – Give priority to pastures that were not grazed or only lightly grazed the previous growing season. This technique has flaws because livestock will target lush new growth; however, they also will consume the old growth from the previous year. The new growth will be high in crude protein (18 to 23 percent) and water content (75 to 80 percent), and low in fiber content (20 to 30 percent). If old growth is not available to provide a dry filler and fiber, livestock may not consume adequate dry matter. These early grazed pastures will need to be rested throughout the summer months; however, if grazing is not severe, the pastures could have some light use again in the fall.

Producers who graze native pastures early in the grazing season need to take precautions to minimize damage resulting from overgrazing.

Contact the Pierce County Extension office at 776-6234 ext. 5 or yolanda.schmidt@ndsu.edu for more information on either of this week’s topics.

Please Enter Your Facebook App ID. Required for FB Comments. Click here for FB Comments Settings page