There are many different strategies for fertilizing pastures. Fertilization strategies depends on your stocking rate, whether you use legumes or not and whether the pasture is made up of summer or winter plants.
The backbone of any good forage system is to develop a nutrient management plan. It all starts by getting a soil test and fertilize according to your production goals. Why is soil testing so important? It helps a producer determine lime and fertilizer needs. A good soil testing program can identify problem areas in fields, save money on unnecessary fertilizer use and increase yields through increased fertilizer use.
To properly sample a field, collect soil from 10 to 15 places in the field at random from ground level to a depth of 6 inches. Place the soil in a clean bucket. Thoroughly mix the soil as you want to get a good random sample. Remove about 1 pint to send to the lab. The county Extension office has soil bags and information sheets that you can use to send samples to Texas A&M University or Stephen F. Austin State University.
Summer grasses like Bermuda grass and bahia can tolerate acid soils to a certain point. At very low pH, production is hurt. However, fertilizer utilization is enhanced when the pH is kept above 6.0. Lime recommendations are usually made when pH is 5.7 or below. Clovers and winter grasses (ryegrass, oats, wheat, and cereal rye) are not as tolerant of acid soils. Clovers require the pH to be 6.0 or above.
Warm season perennials such as Bermuda grass, bahia and native grasses all have different fertilization rates depending on stocking rate or use. The best thing to do is to refer to your soil test analysis. Your fertility program will be based on what is available from the soil and your expected yield or stocking rate.
There are a lot of different ways to fertilize pastures. It all depends on the individual producer’s needs. The basis for all decisions should come from a good soil analysis. From this analysis, the producer can adjust their fertility program to meet their desired outcomes. If you have any questions regarding soil fertility in pastures and hay meadows, contact Clint Perkins with the Smith County Extension Office, 1517 W. Front St. in Tyler, or call 903-590-2980.