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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.


When manure needs to be spread during summer, sometimes the only place available is an alfalfa field.

Manure can provide valuable nutrients to alfalfa, particularly phosphorus, potassium and boron. This may increase alfalfa yield or reduce fertilizer costs. Alfalfa also will absorb the nitrates from manure, reducing the risk of environmental contamination.

But manure can cause problems for alfalfa.

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Soil organic matter means there’s much more to dirt than meets the eye.

“Organic matter is critical for healthy soils,” says Dirk Philipp, assistant professor for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture. “It’s storage of available nutrients, it bonds soil particles for stable structure and can hold water.”

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Nitrogen is one of the most important and costliest plant nutrients, especially for cattle producers. Knowledge of the nitrogen cycle is an important start in shaving costs off of this expensive fertilizer.

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Farmers usually enjoy a yield boost when corn is planted following an alfalfa crop.

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Hay producers in the Southeast rarely have to look far for fertilizer. With billions of broiler chickens in production, there’s usually plenty of poultry litter around.

The mixture of chicken droppings and used bedding material has routinely been spread on hay fields as fertilizer. The hay is harvested and fed to cattle. It’s a beneficial relationship that’s worked for decades.

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Rotating alfalfa with corn can increase corn yield potential through improved soil physical properties that enhance water infiltration and root extension, a reduction in disease and pest pressure (i.e., corn rootworm) and an enhanced soil microbial community.

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