The science behind frost seeding.

Discussion in 'Food Plots for Wildlife' started by Eshoremd, Mar 7, 2019.

  1. Eshoremd

    Eshoremd Member

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    You clicked on this thinking you were going to learn something huh? Sorry. I'm clueless and was hoping someone could explain it to me. What actually happens during frost seeding vs spring/fall broadcasting?

    I touched up a 1/4 acre clover plot last Saturday with some hancock Killer clover. Hoping for the best.
     
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  2. X-farmerdan

    X-farmerdan Well-Known Member

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    I'm sure you can Google the subject and come up with a better explanation then I will offer. First, the success ot failure of frost seeding is based on the heaving and settling of soil, first as it freezes, and then as it thaws. This this is soil in action. Moving soil without equipment. I guess it's the equivalent of natural hydraulics? I assume we all understand that, as water freezes, it expands. Never mind the reasoning behind it. Water in the soil does the same. On bare ground the soil surface fractures (cracks) as the ice expands. Then, when the ice melts, the hydraulic pressure is released and the cracks fill with soil. This ideal condition mostly occurs when the nights are cold and the days are warm -late winter and heading into spring. It may not even happen in the south. What you want to do is seed when the ground is frozen, when there are those spiderweb of cracks that the seed can fall into. As the ground thaws, the seed is covered by soil, fulfilling the basic principle of good seeding - making good seed to soil contact. It works better some places than other and better with some seeds and not so good with others.
     
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  3. swat1018

    swat1018 Well-Known Member

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    I think a lot of the success of frost seeding goes back to the fact that the ground cover at this time of year is a lot substantial than other times of year. That allows the seed a better chance of reaching soil. Then freezing, thawing, precipitation, etc helps "stick" the seed to the soil.
     
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  4. Mennoniteman

    Mennoniteman Well-Known Member

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    As a teenager I walked many an acre with a hand spinner frost seeding red clover, the first years under the watchful eye of my dad to make sure that I was getting the coverage right. I can never recall a year that the process didn't work. We would take our corn off in the fall and drill small grain into the corn stubble, then in early spring we would frost seed clover into the same field, which was mostly bare dirt and rows of frozen rye or wheat that would also restart growing in the spring. In June we'd combine the grain, and that released the new clover, which we'd cut a month later along with the grain stubble which made lower class hay to feed to the heifers. The following year this field would be a clover hayfield for the cows, and the third year the clover would be plowed down in the spring for free nitrogen for a cornfield again, and the same three year rotation would start all over again, with small grain following the corn again that fall. Clover is a cool season crop, and frost seeding the more hardy varieties enables it to start growing and establish earlier in the spring before the summer heat slows down the growth. A few clover seeding principles; clover starts better if it has a nurse crop to provide some protection until it has established. A clover seed won't grow unless it has very good soil contact. A clover seed won't grow if it's buried more than a quarter inch. Clover is very difficult to start in midsummer heat, or if seeded on dry hard ground. Frost seeding gives the seed an almost perfect seed to soil contact.
     
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  5. Mennoniteman

    Mennoniteman Well-Known Member

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    The unfortunate part of frost seeding into existing clover is that because of heavy residue a lot of seed may never get the soil contact that they need to grow. If you are seeing dirt where you seeded, the seed will grow, deer hoofs can be a good tool to trample the seed into the soil and get it growing. On heavy residue pulling a drag or tooth harrow through the field one time can help shake the seeds down to the soil.
     
  6. X-farmerdan

    X-farmerdan Well-Known Member

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    But I think much of the success that comes with frost seeding clover is the size of the seed and the hardness of the seed coat. Because it is so small, and it's a dense seed as opposed to being light and fluffy, it will eventually (caveat) find it's way to where it needs to be to germinate. And because the seed coat is hard, it doesn't easily take on water which starts germination. The practical result is the seed can sit above the soil profile where it wants to be for quite a while. Even then and here's the caveat - the average germination rate (academic studies prove) is only 30% to 50%.....some more, some less.
    Seed of a different character perform much more poorly. Lot's of seeds are not candidates for frost seeding- not never.
     
  7. DIY

    DIY Member

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    I’ve been thinking about running my ATV cultipacker over the plot to maybe help get more seed down to the soil.
     
  8. Eshoremd

    Eshoremd Member

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    Thanks for the great info gents!
     
  9. X-farmerdan

    X-farmerdan Well-Known Member

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    Another way to increase the number of seeds that germinate...or make it to the soil....is to increase the seeding rate.
     
  10. BrianVT

    BrianVT Member

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    I've had good luck doing it before a late snowfall.
     
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  11. Mennoniteman

    Mennoniteman Well-Known Member

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    Seed coating doesn't have anything to do with it. We always combined our own clover seed, had a clover seed cleaner to separate the weed seeds and then replanted the same seed, no coating, with above 80% germination rate. We sold clover seed to all of the other farmers in the neighborhood, no seed coatings. Seed coatings are a relatively new process, clover has been growing without seed coatings for thousands of years. Coated seed will grow better due to nitrogen fixation, but has about the same germination rate. One thing to consider, coated seed has less seed per pound due to the weight of the coating.
     
    Last edited: Mar 8, 2019
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  12. X-farmerdan

    X-farmerdan Well-Known Member

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    You make a lot of assumptions! And you misread and misunderstand much of what you read. I referred to the seed coat, not what you call coatings. Mother Nature gives every seed a coat.


    Definition - What does Seed Coat mean?

    In botany, the seed coat refers to the hard or semi-hard covering that sheathes a seed, protecting it from various types of insects and diseases. Seed coats additionally prevent premature germination by obstructing any excess water from penetrating the seed.

    Harder shells also protect the seed from fluctuations in humidity as well as mechanical stress. The function of the seed coat is also to create a barrier between environmental factors and the budding seed.

    Since I prefer a cordial conversation, I will stop there.
     
  13. Winesburg Duroc

    Winesburg Duroc New Member

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    This is my first year frost seeding, too, and I'm eager to see how it turned out. We'll see in a month or so. I've read countless articles on the subject and talked to a lot of folks who probably qualify as experts...and everyone had a slightly different take. Everyone does agree that the action of soil heaving/cracking during the freeze/melt cycles is advantageous. It opens the soil enough to pull the clover seed just the right depth to germinate while surrounded by adequate moisture.

    Beyond that, things aren't so harmonious. As a rank novice I can't speak authoritatively, but I think a lot of it has to do with your location. A number of experts will say that clover, in particular, benefits from frost seeding because it's one of the earliest, if not the earliest, plant to green up in the spring. So, frost seeding those clover seeds has them in place when the soil temps hit the right mark and the clover gets to start off without a lot of competition from weeds. Looking around here (Ohio), where everything goes brown in the winter, it's clear clover is the first thing green in the spring. Further south, where more weeds are going to survive the winter, frost seeding might not be as beneficial.

    One thing thing that convinced me to try frost seeding is the cost advantage. Frost seeding requires no large equipment input and no spraying. I simply used a mower (and a lot of raking) to remove as much ground cover as possible. Interestingly, after I mowed a couple of small plots to get them ready for planting, the deer got very curious and started stamping around all over the place, which provided quite an increase in exposed soil. A lot of folks recommended seeding a little heavier than you would for a tilled plot, but even if you double the seeding rate, the savings on spraying and tilling more than offset the seed costs.
     
  14. dogghr

    dogghr Well-Known Member

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    I know one thing, if a seed can't find itself some soil contact in the muck of spring then it doesn't deserve to live. Freeze/frost cycle may have its advantages but I see no diff and actually better success when done late March.
     
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  15. FarmerD

    FarmerD Active Member

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    Don't overthink frost seeding. If you have little to no snow on the ground, spread it, preferably, just frozen ground would be best. If seed touches the dirt and eventually gets rained on, it will grow. Seed that doesn't touch the ground, but gets trampled on by deer, cattle, goats, sheep, horses, buffalo or wildebeest later in the spring .... it will grow.

    Frost seeding was developed for cattle farmers, who fed their cattle on pasture, with a mixture of grass and clover. Since the cattle would eat the clover before it ever went to seed, the clover never replenished itself. So the farmer would broadcast clover in the late winter, early spring to keep clover growing. What didn't touch the ground, but via the action of the cattle's hooves, pushed the clover into the soil and got it growing.

    I have spots of Durana growing, where I never planted it, because the deer ate my Durana when it was going to seed. It then passed thru them and started another little clover patch for me! :) Should we call that Deer Seeding? :)
     
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  16. FarmerD

    FarmerD Active Member

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    Now, I will add, that down south, with the heat of the summers we have, I always prefer a fall planted clover, to give it the best chance of survival. Some clovers won't germinate, till Mother Nature says the conditions are right for it. Soil temperature and rain are key ingredients, and until everything is right, the seed will just sit there.
     
  17. FarmerD

    FarmerD Active Member

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    LOL, thinking about it again, I spread my clover with a 3 point hitch PTO spreader and we have, now, 27 plots and there are bumpy dirt (Georgia red clay) roads and trails that I navigate down to get to them and sometimes some clover will get dribbled out. 2 months later, it gets pointed out to me, that I started another plot, on that dirt road. :)
     
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  18. FarmerD

    FarmerD Active Member

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    Mother Nature is pretty darned smart! In the clover plants that I grow and drop seed, Mother Nature covers her bets by producing hard coat seed and soft coat seed, even out of the same plant. The soft coat will be the first to germinate, but if somehow, conditions don't turn out to be the best, then sometime down there road, maybe a year from now, the hard coat (coating breaks down) might germinate to start the process over again.

    I don't want that when I buy commercially grown seed. I want a high % of germination, right now! So, the "growers" will scarify (damage) the seed coat on all it's seed, so that the seed can absorb the water needed to start the germination process.

    https://scialert.net/fulltext/?doi=rjss.2012.38.50

    upload_2019-3-9_7-31-4.png

    https://www.pennington.com/all-prod...inter-a-good-time-to-add-clover-to-food-plots

    upload_2019-3-9_7-34-15.png
     
  19. Mennoniteman

    Mennoniteman Well-Known Member

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    Wildebeest! I forgot how well they like clover. Are you selling any wildebeest guided hunts?
     
  20. FarmerD

    FarmerD Active Member

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    Oh, man! Wildebeest season just finished last weekend! I will put you on the list for next season!
     

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