In the face of drought, inflation, low hay inventories, and high input costs, fertilization of improved grass pastures can be a game-changer for beef production. The good news is that the price of urea fertilizer has recently decreased to 43% of its cost a year ago, which is great news for farmers. In this article, we delve into the significance of fertilization of improved grass pastures, which include Bermuda grass, Crab grass, and Old World Bluestem.
While native range grass pasture is ideal for beef production because it requires no fertilization, is resilient, and requires less management, improved grasses have the potential to produce higher amounts of forage dry matter and beef per acre with adequate fertilization and moisture. This is because improved grasses require intense management, equipment, and weed control. The charts below depict the level of production that can be achieved with ample moisture from improved grasses relative to the amount of nitrogen applied per year.
The relationship between Bermudagrass yield and nitrogen fertilization is linear, with a greater production potential than Old World Bluestem. However, both types of grasses respond favorably to nitrogen fertilizer. As we deal with drought-stressed pastures, it is vital to be ahead of the game in your pasture management plan this year. Apply herbicide to control weeds and fertilizer early to give improved grass pastures the potential to grow all the forage possible when moisture and growing conditions are favorable.
In case of a lack of rain, the nitrogen remains in the soil, ready to provide nutrition to plants when it does rain. Therefore, it is crucial to prepare for drought during times when you are getting moisture and prepare for moisture during times of drought. Take inventory of the forage needed to support your cow-herd this summer and soil test to see if other macro-nutrients like phosphorus (P) or potassium (K) are needed to feed plants. Fertilize accordingly, because you won’t get much production from improved grass pastures without adequate fertilization.
Fertilization of improved grass pastures can increase beef production by maximizing the potential forage dry matter and beef per acre. During this time of drought and high input costs, farmers can benefit from the recent decrease in the cost of urea fertilizer. With proper management, weed control, and fertilization, farmers can take advantage of the potential of improved grass pastures to boost beef production.