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Topics : Species and Forage Variety Trials : Species Fact Sheets : Tall Fescue

Species: Tall Fescue

Additional tall fescue information via the Forage Information System (FIS)

Tall Fescue Fertility

Prior to seeding, lime and fertilizer needs should be determined by soil test. Although tall fescue can achieve adequate yields on low pH soils, maximum productivity is obtained when the pH is between 6.0 and 7.0. In the absence of a soil test for tall fescue seeded alone, plow down 0-45- 135 lb per acre and apply 20-20-20 lb per acre at planting (banded if possible) when seeding without a legume. While small amounts of nitrogen and potash are beneficial at seeding, too high a concentration of these elements can interfere with germination. Do not apply nitrogen at seeding if tall fescue is seeded with a legume.

Under pasture conditions it is difficult to evaluate the amounts of nutrients removed by the grazing animals. Grazing animals will trample or leave some of the total growth available to them. This is returned directly to the soil. Manure is not deposited evenly across the field, most studies show about 12 to 15 percent of a pasture area is covered with manure by grazing animals each year. If there is an estimated 3 tons of forage produced from a pasture field, then a 0-20-60 fertilizer per acre, applied each year should maintain production.

If pure tall fescue stands are used, high yields can be expected if fertilizer is applied during the winter or very early spring. This is especially true for the nitrogen portion of the fertilizer. Tall fescue to be used for hay should receive 100 to 150 pounds of N during the winter period. The same fertilization practices apply for early grazing as well a for hay. If much fall pasture is desired, then fertilizer should be reapplied in July.

When legumes make up 30 percent or more of a tall fescue or any grass stand, do not use nitrogen fertilizer. When these stands are topdressed with fertilizer containing nitrogen the growth looks darker and appears more lush, but research shows that production is not increased. In addition, applying nitrogen fertilizer to mixed stands will cause the grass to dominate the mixture.

Tall fescue-legume mixtures should be topdressed annually with phosphorus and potassium. A fescue-legume mixture will remove about 15 pounds of phosphate and 45 pounds of potash from the soil for each ton of hay produced. Phosphorus and potassium can be applied anytime during the year with satisfactory results.

Additional and more detailed information on forage fertilization is also available.