Articles on forages, animals, and grazing systems
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Extension Forage Specialist
University of Kentucky
Phone: (859) 257-3358
Fax: (859) 323-1952
Fertilizer application is often needed for a healthy forage stand. Having a soil test done before applying fertilizer to pastures is strongly encouraged. Apply only what is needed according to the soil test results. The University of Kentucky recommends phosphorus (P) applications starting when the soil test P level drops below 60 lbs/acre and potassium (K) when soil test K drops below 300 lbs/acre. Ideal soil pH levels are dependent on the forage type and usually range between 6.0 and 5.5.
Nitrogen application in late October to November is ideal to increase grass density, lateral spread, and color. According to Dr. Ray Smith, UK Forage Extension Specialist, if applied at this time, the forage stand will thicken by producing new tillers and spring growth will start earlier. Grasses will also stay greener further into the fall and early winter. Spring application can deplete carbohydrates, reduce root growth, and increase weed competition. Applying nitrogen in late October to November will benefit the forage without causing excessive top growth, a depletion of reserve carbohydrates, or weed invasion. The increase in grass density will allow for competition against spring weeds and the ability to better tolerate traffic. Nitrogen applied in early October will result in more top growth than November applications. Applying twice in the fall has proven to have many benefits. It is recommended that the first application of 30-40lbs/acre is applied the first of September and a second of 30-40lbs/acre be applied the middle of October to early November. If applying nitrogen only once in the fall, apply 40-60 lbs/acre in late October to early November.