The cool wet weather hasn’t done bermudagrass any favors, but now that Arkansas’ nights are warming up, it’s time to fertilize, said John Jennings, forage professor for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture.

The cool day temperatures and saturated conditions delayed greening in March and cool nights in April prevented much significant growth, he said, adding that “now the time we have been waiting for has arrived – warm night temperatures. 

“Bermudagrass is a warm season grass that needs warm day and warm night temperatures,” Jennings said. “It begins greening up after warm days, but never really produces significant growth until night temperatures are 60 degrees F for about a week or more.”

The grass will try to grow on warm days, but cool nights shut down the grass’s internal machinery, negating any sustained growth.

“When a string of warm nights occurs, the grass is ready to begin sustained growth,” he said. “Fertilizing bermudagrass before night temperatures have reached the 60-degree mark results in lower fertilizer efficiency.”

The grass may green up but other cool season grasses and weeds will out-compete the languishing bermudagrass for the nutrients.

“Remember to do soil testing to get fertilizer recommendations meant for hay production,” he said. “In recent years, many hay producers have neglected to apply sufficient potassium fertilizer and bermudagrass stands have thinned significantly as a result.”

Jennings said bermudagrass hay fertilization recommendations are designated by production level so communicating the desired production level at the time of soil sample submission will help the grower obtain the optimum recommendations.