UK specialists give advice on tackling high fertilizer costs

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Near-record fertilizer prices, rising seed costs, supply chain issues, and availability issues worry many growers as to how these challenges will affect their profitability over the course of the year. to come.

Experts at the University of Kentucky have developed a video to help forage and livestock producers find ways to reduce the effects of rising input costs.

The video and online presentation were developed by Chris Teutsch, Forage Extension Specialist, and John Grove, Soil Research and Extension Specialist, and is available on the KY Forages YouTube page. https://bit.ly/3pvdfMb .

“One of the competitive advantages we have in cow-calf systems is the nutrient cycling,” said Teutsch, associate professor of extension at the British College of Agriculture, Food and the Environment. “If we have a well-managed cow-calf system, we will have a very strong nutrient cycle that will develop over time and require less input of fertilizer. ”

Cow-calf systems have poor nutrient removal because much of an animal’s nutrient supply is digested and released to the soil in the form of manure and urine.

Teutsch encouraged producers to take soil samples from their pastures and hay fields.

“Soil testing gives us baseline data on soil fertility, so we’re not just guessing what our fields need,” Teutsch said. “Soil testing is even more important when fertilizer prices are high because it allows us to refine and target our applications to meet the needs of our fields. ”

Teutsch and Grove recommended growers not to apply additional fertilizer if soil test values ​​for phosphorus and potassium are in the middle range until prices moderate or, in the case of hay fields, soil test values ​​fall into the low range. Growers should work with their county extension officers to submit soil samples to soil testing laboratories. Agents can also help producers interpret the results.

Critical time

Timing of application is critical when fertilizer prices are high to ensure growers are getting the most out of their fertilizer dollars. In general, growers should apply nitrogen fertilizers when plants are growing rapidly. However, it is important to remember that the cost of nitrogen fertilizer is only a good deal if producers are using the forage. For example, with cool-season pastures, growers often have more forage than they can efficiently use in the spring, so applying nitrogen to stimulate growth even more may not be a good idea.

“That nitrogen dollar can be better spent by applying nitrogen in the fall to stimulate winter pasture growth,” Teutsch said.

Growers can use technology, like GPS, to their advantage to ensure they don’t overlap with nutrient and seed applications.

Soil acidity is a major factor limiting pasture growth in Kentucky. The good news is that lime prices haven’t risen as quickly as other inputs.

“If your soil test shows your fields need lime, now is a good time to apply it,” Grove said. “Lime increases the pH of the soil and helps make soil nutrients more available to plants and legumes, which makes more efficient use of the nutrients you already have in your soils. ”

Producers can implement rotational grazing to improve the distribution and availability of nutrients in their pastures rather than allowing animals to concentrate nutrients in certain locations, such as near shade or water sources, where animals tend to congregate.

“Although this management technique is not new, numerous studies have shown that rotational storage can increase pasture productivity by 30%,” Teutsch said. “There are very few unique farming practices that can do this. ”

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