With forage crops entering their dormant stage, this is a good time to plan for next year’s production. Oklahoma State University extension specialist Robert Mullen reminds producers that supplying adequate nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium can benefit forage quality and yield.
Nitrogen: As in grain production, he says, identifying a yield potential or yield goal helps determine proper N levels. As rule of thumb, he recommends 40 pounds of N for every ton of grass forage produced. Nitrogen application should also be split throughout the growing season. Apply slightly more in the early spring and make N applications after each cutting.
Phosphorus: Soil test levels should be above the critical range to ensure that P is 100 percent sufficient. The critical range for most forage crops is 50 pounds per acre. Because P is immobile in the soil, it is best applied prior to seeding and incorporated. If P is added to an existing stand, simply broadcast a granular form. Subsurface injection of P may also be an option while the crop is dormant.
Potassium: Most forages remove more K than grain crops, so fertilization may need to occur more frequently. For high-yielding forages, particularly on sandy soils, Dr. Mullen recommends applying K after each cutting. He also points out that the critical level for forages is a function of soil cation exchange capacity, and finer-textured soils require more soil K to be 100 percent sufficient.
Finally, Dr. Mullen stresses the importance of soil testing and forage analysis for managing soil nutrients.