Lush pasture


Maintenance fertiliser applications are still necessary after a moist summer

March 13, 2012

Lush pasture

The favourable summer growth conditions in many parts of the country have set farmers up well for excellent summer and autumn production. However, some farmers are facing the issue of a surplus of pasture, and there are reports of some farmers electing to withhold their normal maintenance fertiliser inputs for fear of making this feed surplus worse.

Ballance Science Extension Manager Aaron Stafford says that farmers need to remind themselves of the reason they are applying maintenance fertiliser in the first place.

“Maintenance fertiliser is applied to maintain good levels of soil fertility – that is, at a level where pasture growth is not limited by nutrient availability. So, applying maintenance fertiliser will not generate a larger feed surplus. Conversely, choosing to withhold this fertiliser could have implications on pasture production over the longer-term, since soil fertility levels will be gradually mined.

“Farmers should consider their needs for phosphate, potassium, sulphur and magnesium to replace the nutrients lost from the soil each year in production. This is what maintenance fertiliser application is required for - not to boost pasture growth.”

Mr Stafford says that farmers need to know what is in the fertiliser mix they are applying. If there is a surplus of feed already evident, the one nutrient they do not want to apply is nitrogen, which should not be part of the maintenance fertiliser mix in this case.

“Farmers are well aware that more nitrogen applied now will just increase the surplus of feed unnecessarily. Our focus with maintenance fertiliser is about maintaining soil nutrition for the future rather than generating a boost to pasture growth now.”

He says that if additional supplements have been cut this summer farmers will need to remember that this also means more nutrient removal, and hay or silage paddocks may need fertilising over and above maintenance levels to replenish the land.

“Another consideration this season is the ability to get nutrients on when you require them. Unnecessarily deferring application of maintenance fertiliser potentially creates issues through generating a large backlog of work for spreaders, further delaying the application of nutrients beyond the critical autumn period.”

Mr Stafford says that while many New Zealand farmers are in the enviable position of lush pastures at the end of summer, farmers in some areas may now be in a position where it is appropriate to apply some nitrogen.

Farmers wanting advice on their upcoming fertiliser applications should contact their local Ballance Technical Sales Representative on 0800 222 090.

13 March 2012

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