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Illinois Livestock Trail
August is Excellent Time for Pasture Fertilization
by Robert C. Bellm, Extension Educator, Crop Systems

Tall fescue, like many of the cool season forage grasses, puts forth a major amount of growth during the fall months. Many grazers like to take advantage of this fall growth by stockpiling it as standing forage in the pasture, and then grazing it during late winter. While the dog days of August may signal the last really hot dry period of the summer, it also marks an excellent time to be applying nitrogen fertilizer to these fescue pastures in order to increase the amount of forage that will be available for deferred grazing.

Tall fescue will respond to nitrogen fertilization as well as or better than any other forage grass. In fact, forage production can be increased between 1000 and 2000 lbs per acre for each 50 pounds of nitrogen applied. In addition to a nearly linear increase in forage production from nitrogen applications, forage crude protein also increases while neutral detergent fiber decreases.

How much nitrogen to apply depends upon several factors, such as the thickness and uniformity of the grass stand, and whether or not legumes are present in the sward. If at least 30 percent of the forage mix consists of legumes such as clover, additional nitrogen fertilizer may not be needed. On the other hand, if the forage mix is predominantly grass, then 50 – 100 pounds of nitrogen per acre should be applied. Stockpiling should begin no later than mid-August in order to maximize the amount of forage available for deferred grazing.

Robert C. Bellm, Extension Educator, Crop Systems, 618-692-9434
Date: 08/20/2004

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