Take Advantage of Spring Moisture to Boost Pastures, Alfalfa

Take Advantage of Spring Moisture to Boost Pastures, Alfalfa April 1, 2016

Most of us have more moisture in our soil profiles this spring than we’ve experienced in a long time.  Following are some suggestions for how to take full advantage of this promising condition to better your pastures.

First, consider pasture fertilization.  Good moisture is needed to make full use of nitrogen fertilizer.  Our university recommendations are based on available moisture for various areas.  When soil moisture is high at the start of the growing season, like this year, heavier rates can be expected to produce economically higher grass yields. If you can use the extra grass growth either for grazing or cutting for hay, apply an extra 20-40 lb of nitrogen per acre this spring.

Alfalfa production should also benefit from all this moisture. Older dryland fields probably will benefit the most since they usually extract most of the deep profile moisture within three or four years of stand life.  Most alfalfa fields tend to be low in phosphorus, especially if fertilizer hasn't been added for several years. If your soils would benefit from a bit more phosphorus, this is a good spring to apply it. Your alfalfa should be able to make immediate use of the increased nutrition to boost hay yields.

Lastly, look to plant and fertilize annual forages.  If you plant summer annual grasses or double crop forages after wheat, take advantage of extra moisture if it remains available at planting.