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Published February 24, 2008, 12:00 AM

Will’s Windmill column: To fertilize or not to fertilize: Should I fertilize pastures, hay fields?

Would you even think for a second about skipping fertilizer on your corn ground? I doubt it. If a recent soil test suggests you need fertilizer or lime on hay and pastureland, economics of production indicates that the return to fertilizer application on your hay and pasture ground is even greater than that for corn acreage.

By: by Will Yliniemi, DL-Online

Commodity prices may be high, but input costs such as seed, feed, fertilizer, land rent, machinery and anything else a farmer might purchase these days seem to all be escalating. Farmers are discussing cost saving measures, and some have suggested skipping fertilizer applications on hay and pasture land.

Would you even think for a second about skipping fertilizer on your corn ground? I doubt it. If a recent soil test suggests you need fertilizer or lime on hay and pastureland, economics of production indicates that the return to fertilizer application on your hay and pasture ground is even greater than that for corn acreage.

After all, an “average” hay yield of 3 tons per acre removes the same amount of potash from the soil as a 600-bushel corn crop.

At a minimum, if fertilizer prices dictate that you simply can’t fertilize all the hay and pastureland that a soil test indicates need to be, take the resources available and use them strategically.

If limited resources dictate you only apply nitrogen fertilizer to your pastures one time during the year, do it after the first growth flush is over in June, Remember, that research suggests that each pound of the first 40 pounds of nitrogen applied to a grass field returns up to an additional 54 pounds of dry matter.

With forages valued at about 5 plus cents per pound right now, an investment of 40 pounds of nitrogen at 60 cents per pound (total cost per acre = $24) on a grass hay field will return more than a ton of extra forage.

Fertilizing hay ground must be a high priority, especially replacing Phosphorus (P) & Potassium (K). Each ton of hay which is removed from a hay field, takes with it 14 pounds of phosphorus and 50-55 pounds of potash.

Replacing the nutrients removed by hay harvest must remain a high priority in order to maintain long term stand health and productivity of perennial hay fields.

For more information on fertilizing pastures and hayfields, please feel free to contact Will Yliniemi, Hubbard/Becker County Extension educator, at 1-218-732-3391, 1-218-846-7328 or by cell at 1-218-252-1042, or by e-mail at ylini003@umn.edu.

Grain markets will be active in 2008

The grain markets are setting up for explosive volatility this spring and early summer.

Discussion generally focuses on acreage allocation among corn and soybeans. However, developments of late indicate consideration also must include wheat, pasture and hay as they’re all in the game. It’s increasingly clear that global demand is accelerating and will likely continue to outpace available supply.

As such, a single growing season is no longer sufficient to remedy production shortfalls. That means planting intentions possess longer-lasting ramifications; markets are looking further out in terms of pricing strategies to ensure adequate supply. Therefore, the next few months will be critical for each crop. Lots of volatility ahead.

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