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Conservation Choices: Forage and Biomass Planting

Forage and Biomass Planting

Forage and Biomass PlantingWhat it is

Planting grass and legumes – suitable for pasture, hay, or biomass production – to reduce soil erosion and improve production.

This practice does not apply to the establishment of annually planted and harvested food, fiber, or oilseed crops.

How it helps

  • Improves or maintains livestock nutrition and health.
  • Provides forage supplies during periods of low forage production.
  • Reduces soil erosion.
  • Improves soil health and water quality.
  • Lush pastures give cover and habitat for wildlife.
  • As plants recycle and roots die, organic matter in the soil is improved.

Tech Notes

  • Follow NRCS recommendations for planting rates, methods and dates.
  • Plant at a depth appropriate for the seed size or plant material, while assuring uniform contact with soil.
  • Plant when soil moisture is adequate for germination and establishment.
  • All seed and planting materials will meet state quality standards. Do not plant federal, state, or local noxious weeds.
  • When planting legumes, use pre-inoculated seed or inoculate with the proper viable strain of Rhizobia immediately before planting.
  • Exclude livestock until plants are well established.
  • Select forage species based on the intended use, level of management, realistic yield estimates, maturity stage, and compatibility with other species.

Planning ahead

  • Are selected species suitable to your soil types?
  • Have you chosen species that will help to reduce the use of pesticides and herbicides?
  • Have you selected species that meet the needs of your livestock?


  • Inspect and calibrate equipment prior to use, and continue to monitor during planting to ensure proper rate, distribution, and depth of the planting material is maintained.
  • Control undesirable weeds/plants.
  • For perennial species, ensure enough plant tissue remains after harvest for the plant to regenerate through photosynthesis.

Iowa Practice Standard