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Fertilizers for Grass and Hay

Effective fertilizing for grass and hay will depend on whether the application is hay crop, pasture, or turf. Traditionally hay, requires the most fertilization as clippings or manure are not re-deposited as on turf or pasture. How to fertilize will also depend on the crops that make up your hay or pasture. Grasses perform best with applications of Nitrogen fertilizers in the spring and balanced fertilizers in the fall to “winterize.” If the grass contains a high legume content like clover the amount of Nitrogen needed is reduced by the clovers ability to create its own nitrogen. Finally, if the pasture or hay has a high Alfalfa content, then more Potassium will be needed to maximize yield.

At Ohio Earth Food we first recommend that you have a soil test done to be sure that your soil is balanced.

If you have equipment to spread a dry granular fertilizer we recommend the following:

  • Hay field – Grass and clover – 2-300 lbs. per acre ReVita Pro 5-4-5 two weeks after first cutting
    High alfalfa content – 2-300 lbs. per acre ReVita Hi-K 2-3-16 two weeks after first cutting
  • Pasture – If not receiving enough manure and not performing, follow Hay Field recommendations.
  • Turf – Corn gluten meal (not for certified organic) just before forsythias bloom to prevent dandelion and other perennial weed seed germination followed by 10 lbs. per 1000 sq. ft. ReVita High N 8-3-3 in May/June and 10 lbs. per 1000 sq. ft. ReVita Pro 5-4-5 in August/September. Golf courses previously chemically fertilized, have even seen dramatic results from 10 lbs. per 1000 sq. ft. of our ReVita 3-4-3.

If you have equipment to spray liquid fertilizer we recommend the following:

  • Hay field, pasture or turf – Grass and Clover or Alfalfa 1 lb. Maxicrop soluble seaweed mixed with 1 qt. 12% Bio Hume dissolved in enough water to cover 1 acre, spray after first and second cutting or rotation. If you believe that nitrogen is needed add 1-4 gallons liquid fish. Jumpstart can also be substituted to easily get seaweed, humate and fish into spray via a soluble.

Based on the result of our testing below, we also strongly recommend applying Liquid Endo Mycorrhizal fungi spores in early spring to existing crops right before a hard rain or mixing the Endo Granular spores in when sewing new seeds. 

Results of our 2017 and 2018 test on the best way to fertilize a grass field for around $50/acre

To answer the common question of “what is the most cost effective way to fertilize a hay crop?” we conducted a test on the Settlage family farm in St. Mary's, Ohio, milk producers for Organic Valley. The test sites were 30-acre rectangles which we divided into sections with a control section right in the middle that received no fertilizer. The tests for 2017 and 2018 were done on separate but adjacent areas of the same field.

The results are listed on image below. Please note that for all tests "lbs. dry matter above control plot" indicates the amount of hay that was harvested beyond the amount listed under the control plot at 3rd cutting. For example in 2017 the control plot yielded 2144 lbs. dry matter at 3rd cutting, test 4 yielded 547 more lbs. than the control (total yield was 2691 lbs.)

The field was approximately 60% grass and 40% clover, not much Alfalfa. All foliar applications were mixed with enough water to cover the area and sprayed a week or two after first and second cutting. The ReVita granular application was done after first cutting. The liquid mycorrhizae was applied in early April. The field was not being grazed this year.

Each fertilization technique was applied on 2.5 to 5 acres and results were measured on third cutting.

The products that were tested were (all per acre in order of least expensive to most):

  1. One foliar application of 6.4 oz. liquid mycorrhizal fungi spores applied in early April so spores could get down to roots.
  2. Two foliar applications of 1 lb. Maxicrop soluble seaweed and one qt. 12% liquid humate dissolved in water.
  3. Two foliar applications of 3 gal. liquid fish and one qt. liquid humate.
  4. One application (1-2 weeks after first cutting) of 200 lbs. ReVita Pro 5-4-5 a dry granular fertilizer made from composted chicken manure, kelp, humate, bone meal, feather meal and sulfate of potash.

   It is interesting to note that there isn’t a clear winner because the highest total weight, RFV (Relative Feed Value) and % crude protein were all from different products. I think an interesting follow up test would be to apply the two least expensive techniques, the Maxicrop and humate with the Mycorrhizal fungi together! This method would still cost less than $50 per acre, and because Mycorrhizae works by growing beneficial fungi off of roots to bring in more water and nutrients, the two should work well together. It would also be interesting to see how results would change if the field had more rain.