Fertilize Pastures November - February
Long-term fertility research indicates that cool-season pastures can be fertilized anytime from November through February with good results. It also indicates that adding 60 to 80 pounds of actual nitrogen per acre will double the forage yield, from a measly one ton per acre to over two tons per acre. Even with current high fertilizer prices, the increase in forage more than offsets the costs. In addition, if a soil test indicates very low levels of phosphorus in the soil, adding the recommended phosphorus fertilizer will give another boost in forage production.
The catch in all this is of course the possibility of continuing dry weather. Drought always plays havoc with good management. Even with a soil test, even with good fertilizer timing, and even with the right amount of fertilizer, with little or no moisture, grass plants are simply not going to grow. So while I can’t guarantee any rain, I can share some long-term fertility data that will help you be prepared to take advantage of forage growth.
Forage fertility data
One of our K-State agronomists reviewed 31 site-years of forage research conducted on farmers’ fields in Douglas, Jackson, Johnson, Miami and Nemaha counties to determine if bromegrass would respond to nitrogen and phosphorus applications. The results indicated that 40 lbs/acre nitrogen increased forage yields 2,190 pounds per acre or an 87 percent increase in forage yields. Adding another 40 pounds for a total of 80 lbs/acre nitrogen increased forage yields an additional 14 percent, and adding another 40 pounds for a total of 120 lbs/acre Nitrogen increased yields 14 percent more.
Data shows nitrogen increases yields in Johnson County, Kansas
Our own Johnson County on-farm research for the past three years has shown unfertilized brome yielding just over 2,000 pounds of forage per acre. Adding 30 pounds of nitrogen per acre increased yields to over 3,500 pounds. Adding 60 pounds of nitrogen per acre increased yields to over 4,300 pounds, and adding 90 pounds of nitrogen per acre increased yields to over 4,700 pounds of forage per acre.