It’s officially spring, and if you haven’t already done so, it’s time to get your pasture ready. After the continual rain of winter, grazed pastures and hay fields need a boost of nutirients to get them off to a good start. Nitrogen and sulfur are necessary plant nutrients that are leached from soil by rainfall and watering, while phosphorus and potassium aren’t affected by rain.
So how do you know how much and when to apply nutrients? The best way to know is to test your soils.
Soil testing is relatively easy and inexpensive compared to the cost of adding too many or too few nutrients. Soil samples start at around $30 per sample and go up from there depending on the nutrients you test for. Many soil sampling labs have a set test for pastures that you can select when you submit your sample. Be sure to ask the lab ahead of time about how much soil to send, when to sample, and what form to send in with your sample. If you have areas that you manage differently you would send in separate samples for each management area.
The main nutrient considerations for pasture are nitrogen (chemical element is N), phosphorus (P), potassium (K), and sulfur (S). Other important considerations are soil acidity (pH), calcium (Ca), magnesium (Mg), boron (B), and soil organic matter.
When submitting a sample, you can test reliably for pH, soil organic matter, and all of the previously mentioned nutrients with the exception of nitrogen and sulfur, which are variable depending on the moisture content and temperature of the soil. In general apply nitrogen and sulfur based upon your usage, not on a soil test as it will be more accurate.
Many soil labs will also send you a recommendation for what to apply based upon your test for an additional fee. You can also interpret your sample by referring to the Pasture Fertilizer Guide 63 for Western Oregon and Western Washington. The District can also help you understand the process of sampling and interpreting your results.
We have resources available to help you get from start to finish when it comes to your pasture fertilization, so [contactus] and let us help you get started!