Fertilizing Winter Annuals This Spring – Yes or No?

It feels like spring where I am in South Dakota! The baby calves are running around enjoying the beautiful weather and things are starting to green up – especially winter annual fields that were planted last fall. This begs the question…should I fertilize my winter annual field?

The short answer is…it depends. What are you using your winter annual field for?

Grazing: if you are grazing the winter annual, you will most likely not need to fertilize. The winter annual will grow and provide forage for your livestock to maintain themselves and reduce your feed cost through the spring season. It’s like having an extra pasture to kick the pairs out on one month before the grass is ready! The majority of the time, livestock want the forage in a vegetative state, so get your livestock on it when the forage is ankle high. This will ensure the best utilization of the field.

Haying or Chopping: if you are haying or chopping the winter annual, fertilize it. Nitrogen is the most useful nutrient for the winter annual when it breaks dormancy and starts greening up. The simplest thing to do is put down 30-50 lbs. of Nitrogen. However, if you have low fertility soils, consider putting down 10-20 lbs. of Potash and 10-15 lbs. of Phosphorous.

A general rule is put on what you will be removing. The chart below shows fertility rates of pounds per ton of forage removed. These removal rates are based on a dry matter basis.

Reach out to any of the land use linchpins on Team Millborn with any winter annual management questions. Happy spring!



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