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Extension News

MSU Extension Offering Soil Nutrient Management Publications for Forages

Improvements in forage production through good soil fertility practices have the potential to increase income for farmers and ranchers. Montana State University Extension has recently published two bulletins, "Soil Nutrient Management for Forages: Nitrogen" and "Soil Nutrient Management for Forages: Phosphorus, Potassium, Sulfur, and Micronutrients." These publications present soil nutrient management options for Montana forage production systems based on regional research results.

The key to nutrient management for optimal forage yield and quality is to select the right fertilizer source, rate, placement and timing for your operation," said Clain Jones, co-author and Extension soil fertility specialist in the Department of Land

Resources and Environmental Sciences (LRES) at Montana State University In addition, selecting the right crop and the best management practices to maximize legume nitrogen fixation are also critical. "Getting it 'right' not only increases profitability, but protects soil, water, and air resources," said Jones. Nitrogen is the most common nutrient that needs to be added for production of forages containing a low percentage of legumes, while phosphorus and potassium are more important for fields dominated by legumes. The correct balance of nutrients can influence stand species composition and is important for efficient fertilizer use, forage yield and quality. Fertilizer rates should be based on soil tests or plant tissue concentrations to ensure adequate amounts, yet minimize the risk of forage nutrient concentrations that are toxic to livestock.

"Nutrient sources that slowly release nutrients over time, such as manure, phosphate rock or elemental sulfur, can extend benefits over years, while many commercial inorganic fertilizers are more immediately available," said Jones. Legumes may be the most economical source of nitrogen. "Because fertilizer can become tied up temporarily in the soil and plant material, the economic benefit of fertilization should be evaluated over several years," said Jones. Adequate nutrients are vital to sustaining stand health and most likely are less expensive than reseeding or interseeding. If stands are a largely desirable species, rejuvenating old forage stands with fertilizer is more effective than mechanical rejuvenation methods such as aeration or harrowing. The bulletins are available as printed copies from the MSU Extension Chouteau County office.

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Original Publication Date: March 12, 2014

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