Fall Nitrogen Application Benefits Horse Pastures Year-Round

Fall is prime time to invest in pastures to protect them before and throughout the winter to ensure good grazing in the spring.
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fall nitrogen application benefits horse pastures
Nitrogen and some other fertilizers can easily be spread using a cone seeder on the back of an all-terrain vehicle. Be sure all equipment is functioning properly and that the seeder is calibrated correctly to apply the desired amount of fertilizer. | Photo: Courtesy Krista Lea

Fall is prime time to invest in pastures to protect them before and throughout the winter to ensure good grazing in the spring. Most cool-season horse pastures should be fertilized with nitrogen in the fall to boost root reserves and extend the grazing season. Other fertilizers can also be added in the fall, based on soil test results.

Applying nitrogen in fall

Nitrogen applied in the spring or summer significantly boosts grass growth, but many farms are unable to utilize this additional growth and ultimately mow it down instead. Rather than wasting good grass, consider applying nitrogen to cool-season pastures in the fall. Fall nitrogen will not greatly increase grass growth, but it will boost grasses’ root reserves, allowing plants to remain greener longer into winter, survive winter better, and green up sooner in the spring. This effectively prolongs the grazing season. Additionally, a strong spring pasture will have better cover, which reduces annual weeds.

For best results, apply 40 to 50 pounds of actual nitrogen per acre to pastures once or twice throughout the fall. If using urea (46-0-0), increase applications to 85 to 105 pounds per acre. Applications can be anytime between September and the first hard freeze (overnight temp of less than 20°F) and should be a minimum of six weeks apart

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