– Jeff McCutcheon, Extension Educator, Knox County
Every spring I get questions from producers about fertilizing their pastures with nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium. Many producers coming out of winter want to give their pastures a boost or they are fertilizing crop fields and figure they might as well do their pasture while they are thinking about it. Eventually I lead the conversation to the question of is this really the best time to fertilize pasture?
Now, I am not totally opposed to fertilizing pastures in the spring. Applications of phosphorus (P) and potassium (K) should be made prior to establishing a new seeding based on soil test results. A light application of nitrogen (N), 20-40 lbs. N/ac. in March could be used to jump start spring growth and allow for earlier grazing. This could potentially give about two weeks of earlier grazing if environmental conditions are favorable. But the acreage for this N application should be limited. The spring flush is coming and most producers can’t normally harvest it all with grazing animals. Why add to the amount of forage produced when you don’t need it? An early nitrogen application also can increase the potential for grass tetany and excess nitrogen in the spring may possibly increase toxins in endophyte-infected tall fescue. Generally, one acre of pasture for every two cows should be fertilized with N in early spring and never more than a third of the total pasture acreage. Continue reading