Oklahoma Water Resources Center

Pasture Recovery Following Drought: Prescriptions

Pasture Recovery Prescriptions

The two best measures of pasture recovery following drought are stand thickness and forage height. These characteristics are often independent of one another, which means that a pasture may be thin and tall or it may be short and thick. While either of these two scenarios can be adequate during periods with favorable growth conditions, pasture recovery will occur more quickly when pastures are both thick and tall. To enhance the post-drought pasture recovery, it is important to consider the following pasture management practices:

  1. Save the best (pastures) for last. Since these pastures will recover the quickest, it is important that they be allowed to have unrestricted growth when the probability of moisture is greatest.
  2. Pay special attention to P fertility needs first to increase root growth of drought-damaged pastures.
  3. Don’t graze or harvest too early. Following a drought, plants that appear healthy may still have a short root system.

Recommendations
Caution: One of the recommendations for pasture recovery related to weed control is a dormant season application of glyphosate. There are reports of bermudagrass and other warm-season pastures beginning an early spring green up. It is extremely important that glyphosate not be applied to these pastures once they have begum their spring growth.

Warm-season grass pastures managed and harvested solely for hay
Cool-season grassy weeds that are present can be grazed in winter or while the summer grass is dormant, glyphosate can be applied to control any remaining winter annual weeds with additional broadleaf weed control in the spring if needed. Following a proper soil test, any nutrient deficiencies, especially P, should be made prior to summer. Nitrogen fertilization can be applied during the summer based on available soil moisture.

Warm-season grass pastures with broadleaf weeds
While the summer grass is dormant, glyphosate can be applied to control any winter annual weeds with additional broadleaf weed control in the spring if needed. Following a proper soil test, any nutrient deficiencies, especially P, should be made prior to summer. Nitrogen fertilization can be applied during the summer based on available soil moisture.

Warm-season grass pastures with grassy weeds
Cool-season grassy weeds that are present can be grazed in winter or while the summer grass is dormant, glyphosate can be applied to control any remaining winter annual weeds with additional broadleaf weed control in the spring if needed. Following a proper soil test, any nutrient deficiencies, especially P, should be made prior to summer. Nitrogen fertilization can be applied during the summer based on available soil moisture.

Warm-season grass pastures with legumes (may or may not include broadleaf and grassy weeds)
Cool-season grassy weeds that are present should be grazed during January. Fertilization with P and K fertilization to promote legume growth should be made in February through early March. If necessary, broadleaf weed control can be applied following legume production cycle. Nitrogen fertilization can be applied during the summer based on available soil moisture.

Recovery Assessment

Pasture recovery following drought is difficult to predict. With inadequate precipitation, pasture recovery may show minimal progress even with proper management. Good growing conditions coupled with proper management practices may result in complete recovery for slightly- to moderately-damaged stands within one year. However, severely damaged stands may take longer than one year for recovery even with adequate moisture.

Daren D. Redfearn
daren.redfearn@okstate.edu

View the original article here.

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