FARMERS who manage grazing systems have a small pocket of time right now to review their approach to grassland management.
Philip Cosgrave of Yara UK, pictured, was interviewed in the latest episode of the “Grow the Future” podcast to highlight practical tips to improve spring grass growth.
Soil Temperature – We often wait for some grass growth before applying our first nitrogen fertiliser of the year, but Philip claims there’s a better approach: “By proactively monitoring soil temperature, we can apply that spring dressing at a point when grass needs it most.”
Once soil reaches 5°C and the weather conditions are right, we can start spreading at a rate of 20-28kg of nitrogen per hectare.
We’ll then benefit from earlier grass cover enabling us to get the cows out earlier, cutting our feed bill and improving livestock gain.
Soil Analysis – Don’t forget to act on soil analysis. Yara laboratory results saw the lowest level of sulphur in soils last year and, due to the leachable nature of sulphate, it’s unlikely your soils will have a plentiful supply so Yara always recommends a fertiliser that includes sulphur.
Where paddocks show a low level of phosphate and potassium, you may want to consider an NPK+S fertiliser. It’s particularly important to ensure grass has access to phosphorus, which at this time of the year can be in short supply.
Slurry – Nitrogen in slurry is highly available so farmers would benefit from using a low emission spreading system to trap that nitrogen in the soil and deliver a much better nitrogen use efficiency for more sustainable farming.
Slurry can also be a valuable source of phosphate and potassium so it can be a good alternative to an NPK fertiliser.
Mixed swards – Many farmers are starting to grow mixed swards. Philip has two tips to maximise growth.
Provide for good soil fertility otherwise some grass species will become more dominant.
Even if you have clover in your field, studies have shown that a dressing of nitrogen in the first half of the season is still required. But from May onwards, you can pull back from applying any more mineral nitrogen.
n Keep up to date with the latest advice from Yara’s agronomists by subscribing to their Grow the Future podcasts.
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