There is wide variation in soil capabilities on almost every farm. Soils differ in their capacity to supply water and nutrients, and they vary in slope, internal drainage, and other factors that affect establishment, production, and persistence of a given forage crop. In addition, grasses, legumes, and grass-legume combinations vary widely in their ability to become established, produce, and persist on different soils. It is important to match the plant species or mixture of species to the soils so that the greatest returns can be realized and the soil is protected. The best use of level to gently sloping, deep, and well-drained land is to plant the highest-producing crops, such as corn silage, alfalfa, or a mixture of alfalfa-orchardgrass or alfalfa-timothy. Steeper land should be maintained in sod-forming grasses, such as tall fescue or bluegrass, to minimize soil erosion. Alfalfa should be used with a cool-season grass where soil is at least 2 feet deep and well drained. On soils that are less than 2 feet deep or are poorly drained, clover-grass mixtures or pure grass stands may be used. Legumes may be established in grass dominant sods through renovation. For more information on pasture renovation, see Cooperative Extension publication AGR-26, Renovating Grass Fields.
soil probe