Pumping Up Production on Valuable Cool Season Pastures

Husker Home Place

New products, fertilizer and good grazing management build cool season pasture production.

Published on: May 7, 2012

Land prices are high. Real estate taxes are climbing. With record commodity prices these days, large numbers of cool season pastures have been turned over and converted into grain production.

For farmers who have retained their pastureland, because of marginal ground or the need for grazing or hay, it’s important to get the most out of the grassland when competition for land is so fierce and the price of maintaining land is so high.

I attended a cool season forages field day near Garrison recently, and learned that many of the new bio-stimulant products, managed grazing, as well as properly timed fertilization, can enhance production on these pastures.

BOOSTING BROME: UNL Extension educator, Mike Rethwisch (right) discusses new products that could boost brome and other cool season forages.
BOOSTING BROME: UNL Extension educator, Mike Rethwisch (right) discusses new products that could boost brome and other cool season forages.

You’ll read more about the results in an upcoming summer issue of Nebraska Farmer, but I wanted to give you a preview. University of Nebraska Extension educator for Butler County, Mike Rethwisch, has been working with bio-stimulant products on corn and soybeans over the past couple of years. So, the research he and UNL Extension forage specialist, Bruce Anderson, are studying on pastures is a natural progression of that work. While the final results won’t be in until later in the summer, early observations have proven that a product called RyzUp Smartgrass, a naturally occurring plant growth regulator, applied alone or in combination with fertilizer or other products, has great potential for enhancing grass growth. Other products in the study also showed some promise. Although more work needs to be done to study the results, it appears that foliar treatments of such products might help forage production after a cutting of hay or grazing for a period of time. Maybe they would enhance growth in paddocks as the herd is rotated around a pasture.

FERTILIZING PROPERLY: UNL Extension forage specialist, Bruce Anderson (center) discusses proper grazing management and fertilization.
FERTILIZING PROPERLY: UNL Extension forage specialist, Bruce Anderson (center) discusses proper grazing management and fertilization.

Anderson commented on the products during the tour, but also gave some basic advice on fertilizing pastures. He noted that phosphorus is often a forgotten nutrient for pasture fertilization. Anderson said that phosphorus works in tandem with nitrogen when they are applied together, so producers should take soil samples of their pastures every so often to see if some phosphorus is needed, or if a short supply of phosphorus could be limiting the response seen with nitrogen applications.

He also suggested that timing fertilizer applications on cool season grasses early in the growing season is best. Warm season grasses shouldn’t be fertilized until later in the spring. There may also be a valuable response to fall applications. In any case, it does no good, according to Anderson, to promote grass growth through bio-stimulants or fertilizer, unless you are planning some kind of managed or rotational grazing system to take full advantage of harvesting the extra production.