Spring fertilization helps replenish the soil after a drought year

With spring comes plenty of work for producers, and one of the tasks on the chore list is fertilizing pastures. With last year’s drought and this year’s recent rains, staying up on spring fertilizing is important for good pasture health.

The first step in a spring fertilizer program is testing the soil.

“As always, obtain a soil test before fertilizing in order to apply the right amount of nutrients,” Jill Scheidt, agronomy field specialist with the University of Missouri said. “Over application can waste money and create excessive amounts of nutrients in the soil; under application may negatively affect yield.”

Nitrogen is one of the most commonly used spring fertilizers.

“Nitrogen is a mobile nutrient in the soil, so splitting applications between spring and fall is the most efficient way to supply a cool season pasture, like fescue, with the nitrogen it needs,” Scheidt said. “I typically recommend applying two-thirds of the total nitrogen needed in the spring (March to early April) and the remaining one-third in the fall (mid-August to early September). Phosphorus and potassium can be split or applied all at once, there is no significant yield advantage.”

Coming out of a drought year, phosphorus and potassium will be important to prevent the spread of weeds that could be trying to take over bare, overgrazed areas from the summer.

Ragweed and yellow foxtail are common weeds that take advantage of droughts. Pastures containing these weeds often show very low levels of phosphorus and potassium, according to Valerie Tate, University of Missouri agronomist.

“If annual weeds like ragweed and foxtail are problems in pastures and hayfields, improving pH, phosphorus and potassium levels may be more beneficial than controlling weeds with herbicides,” she said.

Thus far, spring in the Ozarks has brought heavy rainfall, which has made any heavy machinery work difficult.

“I don’t think we are behind yet, but if it stays wet, that could put us behind schedule,” Scheidt said. “The ideal time-frame to fertilize for the spring is March through the beginning of April, so there is still hope for fertilizing in a timely fashion.”

Klaire HowertonFarm Helpdrought,Fertilizer,pastures,springSpring fertilization helps replenish the soil after a drought year With spring comes plenty of work for producers, and one of the tasks on the chore list is fertilizing pastures. With last year’s drought and this year’s recent rains, staying up on spring fertilizing is important for good pasture health. The...The Ozarks' most read farm newspaper, reaching more than 58,000 readers in Missouri, Arkansas and Oklahoma