Fertility for Perennial Stands

 Knowledge nuggets | Fact sheets on general forage fertility | Fact sheets on tame hayland and pastures | Fact sheets on native pastures | Research papers

Knowledge Nuggets.

  • Fertilizing any type of crop in not an exact science. The soil-plant environment is a dynamic eco-system that is always changing. It is a very complex mixture of organic matter, minerals, insects, nematodes, bacteria, fungi, water, gasses and weather interactions. Any disruption of one of these components can change the availability of nutrients.
  • Water and nutrient supply are the two most important factors controlling the growth of a forage crop. There are 20 nutrient elements that are needed for plant growth. A deficiency in any nutrient can limit productivity. There are eight commonly deficient nutrients. The major nutrients include: nitrogen (N), phosphorous (P, in the form of phosphate P2O5) and potassium (K, in the form of potash K2O). The secondary nutrients include: sulphur (S), magnesium (Mg) and calcium (Ca). The minor nutrients include: zinc (Zn) and boron (B).
  • One ton of alfalfa (dry matter basis) removes 58 lb N, 14 lb P2O5, 60 lb K2O, 6 lb S. On ton of grass forage (dry matter basis) removes 44 lb N, 10 P2O5, 42 lb K2O, 4 lb S.
  • Periodically soil test to determine availability of plant nutrients and to identify the soil nutrients that are not in adequate supply.
  • Fertilizer recommendations for essential nutrients based on averages from soil tests coupled with field experience of normal growing conditions provide a good base for fertility programs.
  • Yield goals should be considered and be based on historical rainfall information. Adjusting fertilizer rates based on realistic yield goals is essential to maintain environmental quality and to obtain maximum economic returns.
  • Maximum return per unit of N fertilizer will be reached if:
      a. adequate soil moisture is present,
      b. tame forage stands are fertilized,
      c. weeds are controlled,
      d. no soil limiting factors, such as extreme pH, salinity, or poor drainage, are present.
  • In general, nearly all grass-based stands will benefit from nitrogen fertilization. If the stand includes a high proportion of legumes, nitrogen fertilization is less important since legumes fix atmospheric nitrogen.
  • General annual fertilizer recommendations: 30-110 lb N/acre for grass stands and no N fertilizer if stand is more than 35% legumes; 0-45 lb P2O5/acre for grass stands and 0-60 lb P2O5/acre for legume stands; 0-35 lb/acre K2O for grass and legume stands; and 0-35 lb/acre S on well-drained and grey wooded soils. Potash and sulphur levels in soils are very variable, soil testing is highly recommended.
  • The best time to apply fertilizer is early in the spring when the plants begin to grow.
  • Prior to establishing forages, consider front loading or pre-placement of soil stable nutrients like P and K to improve the long-term nutrient status of the crop. Pre- placement of these nutrients makes them more available to establishing plants rather than waiting for broadcast fertilizers to migrate into the root zone.
Fact Sheets on General Forage Fertility

Alberta Fertilizer Guide

Applying Manure on Perennial Forages

Fall Fertility of Forage Stands - Frequently Asked Questions

Fertility Management in Forages - available in PDF format only

Fertilizer Management for Seed Production of Perennial Forages in Saskatchewan

Fertilizing Alfalfa Forage

Fertilizing Grass for Hay and Pasture

Forages: Fertility Management

Legume Inoculation Cuts Fertilizer Need

Potential Uses for Agrotain and Polymer Coated Products - available in PDF format only

Fact Sheets on Tame Hayland and Pastures

Fertilizing Cool Season Grasses and Grass/legume Mixtures

Fertilizing Forage Stands

Grazing Management Affects Soil Phosphorus and Potassium Levels

Forage Crops - Fertilizer

Managing P and K Fertility for Forages

Manitoba Soil Fertility Guide

Nitrogen Fixation and Inoculation of Forage Legumes - available in PDF format only

Nutrient Management on Intensively Managed Pastures

Purchasing Nutrients for Hay and Forage Crops

Fact Sheets on Native Pastures

Fertilizing Mountain Meadows

Manure Application and Nutrient Balance on Rangeland

Research Papers

Ammonia volatilization from soils fertilized with urea and varying rates of urease inhibitor NBPT - available in PDF format only

Characterizing nitrogen transfer from red clover populations to companion bluegrass under field conditions - available in PDF format only

Current and residual effects of nitrogen fertilizer applied to grass pasture on production of beef cattle in central Saskatchewan - available in PDF format only

Fertilization of Extremely Grazed and Moderately Grazed Mixed Grass Prairie With Slow Release Phosphorus and Urea

Fertilizer Management for Forage Crops in the Canadian Great Plains - a Summary

Fertilizer Management for Forage Crops in the Canadian Great Plains - a Review

Nitrogen fertilizer product and timing alternatives exist for forage production in the Peace region of Alberta - available in PDF format only

Pasture type and fertilization effects on soil chemical properties and nutrient redistribution - available in PDF format only

The influence of harvest management and fertilizer management on seasonal yield, crude protein concentration and N offtake of grasses in northeast Saskatchewan - available in PDF format only

The influence of harvest management and fertilizers on herbage yields of cool-season grasses grown in the aspen parkland of north eastern Saskatchewan

Yield, quality and cost effectiveness of using fertilizer and/or alfalfa to improve meadow brome grass pastures - available in PDF format only
  For more information about the content of this document, contact Grant Lastiwka.
This document is maintained by Linda Hunt.
This information published to the web on October 24, 2003.
Last Reviewed/Revised on September 2, 2015.

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