Responding to confusion afield last week, Maryland Department of Agriculture officials clarified its guidelines concerning winter nutrient applications for farmers growing small grains and cover crops. The guidelines apply to all farmers growing small grains, plus cover crops under the commodity option of the MDA Cover Crop Program.
The Maryland Agricultural Water Quality Cost-Share program contracts restrict nutrient applications to commodity cover crops before March 1. But Maryland's revised nutrient management regulations allow top dressing of small grains before March 1 – under certain conditions.
The regulations include provisions allowing organic nutrient applications to be made in winter for certain crops, including small grains. MDA is modifying this particular MACS requirement to reduce confusion in light of its revised nutrient management regulations.
So, here are the rules
•All farmers growing small grains and those in the cover crop commodity option could apply either commercial fertilizer or organic nutrient sources as early as February 15, in accordance with their nutrient management plans.
•Manure applications on small grains aren't required to be incorporated. MDA interprets small grains as an existing crop similar to hay and pasture, and therefore are exempt from the requirement.
•This green-up application allowed after February 15 is limited to no more than 50% of the spring nitrogen recommendation. The other 50% must be done after growth stage Feekes 5-6 or 1,350 growing degree days.
For more info on the MDA Cover Crop Program provisions, contact your local soil conservation district or the Maryland Agricultural Water Quality Cost-Share (MACS) Program at 410-841-5864. Questions about winter nutrient applications should be directed to the Nutrient Management Program at 410-841-5959.