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Fertilizing

Nutrient management is essential to soil health and we’ve contacted the experts to guide you – read their tips for raising a successful forage crop.

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Farmers across the country are always looking for ways to minimize crop input costs whether they grow corn, soybeans, small grains, alfalfa, clover or specialty crops due to the high costs of fertilizer, seed, fuel and land rental rates.

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Low soil potassium (K) levels reduce a plant’s ability to withstand stress from drought, disease, insects and winter damage. In hay and pasture, both grasses and legumes are negatively impacted by potassium deficiency.

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This year many areas of the state have been reporting good forage yields so far. As a result, we nutrient removal by the crop may be up significantly too. This combined with increasing fertilizer prices, especially for potassium (K) has raised questions about fertilization of forage stands.

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As hay harvest season gets under way, thinking about fertilizing those stands should be a priority due to cost of fertilizer (Figure 1).

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I have seen several problems this spring with what appear to be nutrient deficiencies. The most recent has been boron (B) in alfalfa; the photos here were taken in Mercer County, Illinois.

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Rotating alfalfa with corn can increase corn yield potential due to improved soil physical properties that enhance water infiltration and root extension, altered soil microbial communities and reduced pest pressure.

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