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Fertility For Your PRG Crop

Getting the most out of a crop is at the top of every grower’s list, and a big factor in your yield is fertility. Perennial ryegrass yield, specifically, is closely correlated to fertilizer availability.

When it comes to seed yield, nitrogen is considered the most important nutrient. Perennial ryegrass needs 120 to 140 lb of it for a full crop, but because it’s grown over two seasons, growers need to consider how and when to apply nitrogen to maximize efficiency.  The timing of application can vary — you can apply 100% of nitrogen in the fall after the cover crop is harvested, 100% in the early spring after the crop has overwintered, or you can do a split application in spring and fall.

When perennial ryegrass starts to tiller in early spring, it’s imperative the plant has access to adequate nitrogen. BrettYoung Seed Production Specialist Allan Wilson said this is why lots of growers split apply fertilizer as it ensures the plants are never deficient in nitrogen.

Wilson said growers can use liquid and dry forms of nitrogen — application of it shortly before a rain event is ideal.

“Broadcast nitrogen can gas off and be lost in the atmosphere,” he said. “Precipitation is needed to move surface applied nitrogen into the soil so that doesn’t happen. If rain isn’t in the forecast, we recommend using a nitrogen stabilizer.”

A nitrogen stabilizer will help to minimize nitrogen losses if rain doesn’t come soon after application.

Wilson also recommends applying an extra 30 lb of phosphate to your field when seeding, and if its required, potassium then too. A soil test will help you to determine any additional nutrient requirements.

“Adequate fertility is extremely important for perennial ryegrass seed yield,” he said. “Rates and timing of application can make a significant difference to overall seed production.”

Growers know an increase in nitrogen fertility promotes more seed production, but problems can arise when there’s too much of it.

High rates of nitrogen can cause increased stem length, which leads to crop lodging. If perennial ryegrass lodges too early, your seed fill will be affected, reducing your overall yield. Luckily, plant growth regulators were introduced in perennial ryegrass seed production a few years ago and they’ve almost eliminated the negative effect of early lodging.

“This has made it possible to increase nitrogen rates while keeping your crop standing,” said Wilson. “Which provides an easier harvest and increases your yields.”

When applying fertilizer, it’s important to do so responsibly. An easy way to ensure you’re doing that is with 4R Nutrient Stewardship, a program responsible for the effective management of nutrients. The four R’s of fertilizer application are:

  1. The Right Source of fertilizer used
  2. at the Right Rate
  3. at the Right Time
  4. in the Right Place

Following the 4R’s is economically, socially, and environmentally beneficial. To learn more about fertilizer application, contact your BrettYoung Seed Production Specialist.

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