Against a back drop of rising input costs, farmers need to look at maximising the output from their grassland by focussing on a few key agronomy management practices – that's the key advice from Jim Clark, the Carlisle-based agronomist with Hutchinsons.

This means looking at grass more as an arable crop by the likes of creating a long-term plan for reseeding and controlling weeds, plus a soil health plan.

"The most important step is often the first and managing grassland is no different. Get out and walk the grass, and really look at its condition," said Mr Clark.

"So, take note of how much cover there is across the field, what is the weed burden particularly in relation to docks, and also any poaching and compaction. Take some soil samples as you go to check your pH, P and K levels."

He pointed out that poached and compacted soils carry a higher weed burden, with chickweed a particular issue, but docks are a major problem this spring as a result of a mild winter and stock out-wintered for longer causing bare soil – and docks love open ground.

"Choose grass varieties with the weed burden and herbicide options in mind. For example, if including clover in the sward, many dock and chickweed herbicides will knock this out as well, so its important to plan ahead when thinking about reseeding.

"If fields have a high weed burden, sow a short term or even a different crop for a few years to get them under control before sowing your clover and herbal leys," he said.

"Remember that some herbicides are much kinder to the grass when carrying out weed control than others and you don’t want to check the grass growth in spring, so use a softer product based around fluroxypyr."

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When reseeding, seed to soil contact was essential for good establishment, so unless the soil is bare, avoid a scratch harrow air drill, he advised. When direct drilling into the sward, temperature is key to success. Cooler temps of 6-8°C suit Italians and Westerwolds, but later perennials and clover need 9-10°C.

Grass should be sown before applying slurry, particularly if going on in bands. If drilled after the slurry is applied, it is much harder for the drills to penetrate the soil which affects the all-essential soil:seed contact.

Five top tips:

1. Look closely at the soils for compaction or poaching and plan any sward restoration work around this.

2. Know the weed burden in each field. Recognise that docks need a specific management plan.

3. Choose grass varieties carefully taking into account suitable herbicide programmes.

4. Choose the correct reseeding approach depending on sward quality and soil temps

5. Time slurry applications to compliment the best possible establishment.