There's Still Time to Fertilize Summer Hay Meadows
Do you need to grow more hay for next winter? One way to get it is to fertilize your hay meadows this spring.
Hay meadows respond well to fertilizer if you use the types and amounts of fertilizer that work best for the plants in your hay meadow. For example, do you have much clover or other legumes in your hay meadow? If so, fertilize with phosphorus. A soil test can tell you how much phosphorus to use; usually 20 to 40 lb per acre will stimulate legume growth nicely in most hay meadows. These legumes then will help supply some nitrogen to the grasses in your meadow, and the hay you cut from this meadow will yield more and contain more protein than straight grass hay.
If your meadow is already green and growing well with cool-season grasses like bluegrass, brome, timothy, or wheatgrasses that head out in late May or June, consider adding nitrogen. It can increase yield if applied very soon. The rate to apply declines from east to west in Nebraska. In eastern Nebraska use about 80 lb N/acre, while in the Panhandle, use 30-40 lb N/acre.
Warm-season grass meadows are starting to green up, too. Like cool-season grasses, nitrogen rates decline from 60 pounds in eastern Nebraska to 30 pounds in the west. Wait until mid- to late May before fertilizing warm-season grass meadows.
Good meadow moisture plus the right fertilizer can increase hay yields from most meadows. With low hay carryover, this may be a good year for you to fertilize to increase yields to better meet next year's needs.