Agrotips — September 2008
Don't fertilize grass during drought.
Fall is usually the time to fertilize cool-season grasses, including hay and pasture crops. However, the NCDA&CS Agronomic Division recommends delaying fertilization if drought conditions persist in your area. Rain does not necessarily mean the drought is over. Visit www.ncdrought.org to keep up with the drought status for your area.
Moisture is needed for grasses, like fescue and orchardgrass, to begin fall growth. Without moisture, fertilizer application is likely to be a waste of time and money. In the case of forage grasses, it could also be dangerous. High levels of nitrates can be fatal to cattle.
Focus on strawberry fertility.
Take soil samples and apply any recommended lime as soon as possible. Generally, strawberries need 100–120 pounds of nitrogen per acre per season. Prior to building the beds and laying plastic, apply 30–60 pounds of nitrogen along with any phosphorus or potassium recommended on the soil report. Even when soils are high in phosphorus, an application of 30 pounds can be beneficial.
Check for nematode problems during crop harvest.
Plant-parasitic nematodes are common in all field crop soils and often lower yields without being apparent. Fall is an excellent time to find out if nematode populations are high and, if so, to develop a plan to manage them. When the weather is good for harvest, it is also good for collecting soil samples for nematode assay.
Nematode populations peak at the end of the growing season so samples assayed now provide a good description of potential hazards. Sampling now also allows time to plan a management strategy.
If you noticed localized areas of poor growth during the growing season, it is a good idea to collect separate soil samples from good and poor areas. Submit two samples from each of these areas-one for nematode assay and one for soil fertility. Comparison of results from good and poor areas and from nematode assays and soil tests is helpful in pinpointing a problem.