Fertilizing Cool Season Pastures

Good pasture management begins with maintaining good soil fertility to promote the growth of desirable grasses and legumes such as orchardgrass, perennial ryegrass, novel tall fescue, KY bluegrass, ladino clover and red clover. Follow these simple guidelines to improve soil fertility and maximize forage growth.

Soil sampling:

  • Can be done most of the year, but early spring and fall are most common
  • Sample four inches deep
  • Divide large pastures for sampling purposes

Phosphate, Potash and Lime

  • P and K promote forage growth and longevity, in grass pastures. Lime adjusts the pH of the soil, making other nutrients more available to the plants.
  • Applications of P, K and lime (and other nutrients) are determined by a soil test and are usually not be needed every year for pastures.
  • P,K and Lime can be applied at any time of the year that weather is cooperative

Nitrogen Applications

  • Spring nitrogen is generally not needed for cool season pastures because grass growth is rapid in the spring and more mowing will be required. However, farms that have high stocking rates and intensive grazing can benefit from light nitrogen applications in early spring.
  • Apply nitrogen in mid-August on pastures being stockpiled (40-80lbs/acre). Light fall N applications to other pastures helps to prolong fall growth, increase tillering, and prepare plants for overwintering (October 30-60 lbs/acre).
  • Only apply N in the summer to warm season annual or perennial forage, such as bermudagrass. Be sure to apply urea during cool days, just before rain or use volatilization inhibitors.

For more information on Liming and Fertilizing forages see AGR-1

~ Krista Lea