Tips for boosting pasture production

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By Steve Moore

The three primary nutrients required for plant growth are nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium. Nitrogen is an essential nutrient necessary for photosynthesis and building protein, and it has long been known that increasing nitrogen in the soil has been proven to greatly increase pasture production.

We can add nitrogen in two ways: by using legumes like clover in grass stands or by applying nitrogen fertilizer, but we can lose it in three ways. Denitrification occurs when there is not enough oxygen to supply the needs of the soil bacteria and microorganisms, which is the case with waterlogged soils. Leaching occurs when there is more precipitation than the soil can hold. Last, volatilization occurs when N breaks down and forms ammonia gasses. The type of N fertilizer utilized affects the probability for loss due to denitrification, leaching, or volatilization.

Nitrogen fertilizer should be applied when pastures will have the best opportunity to have a yield response. For cool season pastures, research shows that split N applications generally maximize yields when N is applied in the late summer, early spring and for added growth again in the late spring. Therefore, to fully benefit from the cost of N fertilizer, apply when plants will have the best response and are able to uptake the most N. Through March 15, UK research shows that up to 100 lbs of actual N per acre gets the best cost/benefit ratio, and after that, the recommended amount goes down closer to 50 pounds by May 1.

We are likely out of the window of time where frost seeding to get clovers into grass stands is effective, but certainly not too late to renovate using some method which insures good seed soil contact. Disking and dragging can work, but the Cadillac treatment at this point is the pasture drill. While the effect of pasture renovation is not as immediate as applying a nitrogen fertilizer, it is longer lasting and provides both extra yield and quality in your forage production system.

Third Thursday Thing

The Agenda for The Third Thursday Program at Kentucky State University, April 18, at the KSU Farm at 1525 Mills Lane near Frankfort will feature Soil Conservation programs and techniques. The May 16 meeting will address Caged Culture of Fish. The programs are informational and informal. Beginning at 10 a.m., they almost always include a nice lunch for attendees. Call us at 845-2811 for further details.

Orchard Tour

If you are interested in fruit production, whether tree fruits or berries, we hope you can attend the Ky Fruit Growers Annual Tour which will be held tomorrow, Thursday, April 11, beginning at 10 am, at Mulberry Orchard just south and east of Eminence. Call the Extension Office at 845-2811 for address.

Cattleman’s meeting

The Henry County Cattleman’s Association will meet at 6:30 p.m. Monday, April 22, at the Henry County Extension Office. As always, a good program of food, fellowship, and education is on the agenda. Please contact the Extension Office at 845-2811 to reserve your spot.

Hay Day

All forage producers are reminded of the North Central Kentucky Hay Day coming up in a couple of weeks. Mark your calendars from 3 to 9 p.m. Thursday, April 25, at the Seth Bryant Farm approximately 3 miles north of New Castle. A good day of demonstrations and trade show is being planned. Please call us at 845-2811 to let us know your intentions to attend.