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Soil Fertility and Pasture Fertilization. Les Vough Forage Crops Extension Specialist Emeritus. INAG 116. Causes of low pasture productivity:.  Lack of adequate fertilization.  Poor grazing management.  Unproductive species. Adequate Fertilization.  Soil test every 2-3 years.

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Soil Fertility and Pasture Fertilization

Les Vough

Forage Crops Extension

Specialist Emeritus

INAG 116


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Causes of low pasture productivity:

 Lack of adequate fertilization.

 Poor grazing management.

 Unproductive species.


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Adequate Fertilization

Soil test every 2-3 years.

Lime and fertilize according to soil test recommendations.


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Soil Testing

If no-till seeding, sample from 2 depths -- surface to 2 inches and surface to 8 inches or normal plow layer if pasture has ever been plowed.

If tilled soil seeding, sample from surface to 8 inches or the plow or tillage depth.


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Correct Fertility Deficiencies

Do not attempt seeding unless willing to apply the recommended amounts of lime and fertilizer.

pH affects availability and plant utilization of minerals.

P critical for seedling development.

  • K critical for maintaining legumes.

  • Apply 1 – 3 years before seeding.


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Mid-Atlantic Equine Pasture Initiative

Mid-Atlantic Equine Pasture Initiative

Pasture Soil Fertility Management

Daniel Kluchinski

County Agent & Assistant Director

Rutgers University

Paul H. Craig

Dauphin County Cooperative Extension Agent

Penn State University


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pH Basics

  • Soil acidity or alkalinity is measured by pH

    • The pH scale is from 0 to 14

      • 7.0 = Neutral

      • < 7.0 = acidic

      • > 7.0 = alkaline or basic

  • Crops have specific soil pH requirements for optimum growth

  • Most pasture grasses and legumes prefer a pH range of 6.5-7.0


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pH Basics

  • Low pH conditions can cause:

    • Aluminum toxicities

    • Reduced availability of soil nutrients

    • Poor conditions for soil microbes

    • Deficiencies of calcium and/or magnesium

    • Poor soil structure


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pH Basics: Limestone

  • Limestone is an amendment used to reduce soil acidity (raise pH)

  • Limestone contains carbonates and oxides of calcium and magnesium

  • Expressed as CaCO3 or MgCO3


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pH Basics: Limestone

  • Quality and neutralizing ability

    • Depends on origin or source of limestone

    • Limestone recommendations are based on Calcium Carbonate Equivalent (CCE)

    • Can vary from less than 60 to more than 125 CCE

    • The actual amount of limestone to be applied will differ from material to material due to different CCE values for each


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pH Basics: Limestone

  • Limestone particle size affects rate of neutralization

    • Finer materials react faster

    • Pulverized > ground > granular

  • Ag lime must meet minimum standards and the label must provide a guaranteed analysis



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Fertilizer Basics

  • Most fertilizers are products that supply:

    • Nitrogen (N)

    • Phosphorous (P)

    • Potassium (K)


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Fertilizer Basics: Grades

  • Grades of fertilizer are identified by three numbers, for example:

    • 10-10-10

    • 5-10-5

    • 46-0-0

  • Numbers represent the percentage, by weight, of N, P2O5, and K2O, respectively


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Fertilizer Basics: Nitrogen

  • Nitrogen is abbreviated as “N”

  • Listed as the first number in fertilizer grade

    • 10-10-10

  • Critical component of plant proteins

  • Required for vegetative growth

  • Produces lush, dark green coloration

  • Most forms do not remain in the soil, rather they have high soil mobility

  • N must be annually applied and in methods that reduce environmental problems

  • Can be fixed by legumes


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Fertilizer Basics: Phosphorous

  • Phosphorus is abbreviated as “P”

  • Listed as the second number in fertilizer grade

    • 10-10-10

  • Vital role in plant reproduction

  • Essential for root growth and seedling development

  • Supplied as P2O5

  • Limited soil mobility


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Fertilizer Basics: Potassium

  • Potassium is abbreviated as “K”

  • Third number in fertilizer grade

    • 10-10-10

  • Important in many chemical processes in plant growth

  • Important for disease resistance, overall plant health, and winter hardiness

  • Supplied as K2O

  • Little soil mobility


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Fertilizer Basics: Grades

  • Multiply the total weight of fertilizer material by the percentage for each nutrient to determine actual nutrient content

    • For example, an 80-pound bag of 10-10-10 fertilizer contains

      • 8 lb. of N

      • 8 lb. of P2O5

      • 8 lb. of K2O


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Fertilizer Basics: Grades

  • Fertilizer recommendations are provided based on pounds of nutrients needed for the given crop based on the soil test levels and expected yields

  • Application timing and method will be provided in the recommendation


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Fertilizer Basics: Manures

  • Manures are a source of nutrients

    • Typical nutrient composition of horse manure (per ton)

      • 12 lb. of N

      • 5 lb. of P2O5

      • 9 lb. of K2O

    • A manure analysis will provide data on specific nutrient concentrations


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Fertilizer Basics: Manures

  • Manure should be applied to fields only if fertility levels justify their application.

  • Manures can be composted to reduce their volume as well as any pathogens contained within.


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Pasture Fertility Management

  • Soil testing data and recommendations should be followed to develop a fertility and pH management plan

  • Recommendations differ, depending upon:

    • New seeding or established stand

    • Grass and legume species

    • Current fertility levels


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Pasture Fertility Management

  • Establishing New Seedings

    • Last chance to build nutrient levels into the optimum range throughout the rooting zone

      • At this time, tillage may be used to incorporate and mix lime and fertilizer into the soil

      • This is particularly important if the soil pH or phosphorus level is very low

    • Fertilizer and lime usually broadcast onto the field and disked or tilled into the soil prior to seedbed preparation


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Pasture Fertility Management

  • Establishing New Seedings

    • Different application procedures are used depending on the amount of lime or fertilizer to be applied

      • If large amounts are recommended, apply as a split application -- plow down ½ the amount and surface apply the remaining ½

      • If small amounts are recommended, apply the entire amount on surface


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Pasture Fertility Management

  • Maintenance of Established Pastures

    • Amount of N, P2O5, and K2O recommended depends on current soil fertility levels and the type of pasture species being grown.

    • N not recommended for pastures containing >25% legumes.

    • Heat sensitive grasses such as Kentucky bluegrass and timothy require different fertilizer rates and application times than less sensitive grasses such as tall fescue and orchardgrass.


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Pasture Fertility Management

  • N -- Established Grass Pastures

    • Rate based on expected yield

      • Generally 40 lb N/acre/ton of expected yield is recommended

      • Equivalent to approximately 100 to 250 lb N/acre annually

  • Timing – split applications

    • Late winter/early spring (green up)

    • Mid- to late May

    • Late Aug/early Sept


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Pasture Fertility Management

  • P and K --Established Grass Pastures

    • Application rates based on soil nutrient levels and expected yields

      • Generally 10 - 20 lb P2O5 and 45 - 60 lb K2O removed/ton of forage

    • Timing

      • For low fertilizer rates, timing not critical

      • High rates should be split for maximum efficiency

        • ½ in mid- to late May

        • ½ in late Aug/early Sept


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Pasture Fertility Management

  • Long-Term Management

    • Recommended fertilizer applications should be followed for a 2- to 3-year period.

    • Soil should be retested every 2 to 3 years to determine:

      • Soil pH and fertility status

      • If any change in fertilization and pH management is necessary


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Pasture Fertility Management

  • Long-Term Management

    • All soil test reports should be kept on file for historic reference

    • All application records should be retained for future reference

      • Include a field-by-field inventory

      • Record lime and fertilizer analyses

        and rates

      • Record manure applications

    • Reference this information and follow the recommendations to improve and maintain soil fertility


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Conclusions

  • Optimum production of pasture plants depends on optimum pH and fertility management

  • Soil testing is the foundation for sound soil fertility management

  • Timely applications of necessary lime and plant nutrients will provide pasture plants with optimum fertility conditions

  • Proper management is essential to reduce environmental risks or degradation


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