Thursday, June 16, 2011

Haying a pecan grove effects nutrient budgets

    Many native pecan producers like to cut a hay crop from their groves as a good way to "clean up" the orchard floor. The grove pictured at left looks picture perfect and has a valuable hay crop that can be sold or fed.
    Unfortunately, most growers that regularly hay their groves do not figure in the cost of replacing the soil nutrients that are removed when the hay is trucked off the farm. For every ton of hay harvested, an estimated 30 pounds of nitrogen, 7 pounds of phosphorus and 42 pounds of potassium are removed from the pecan grove.
    Nitrogen and potassium are also used in large amounts to build pecan crops. By removing these important nutrients with a hay crop you are effectively robbing soil fertility away from the much more valuable pecan crop.
    There are two options in dealing with the ground cover. First you can just brush hog down all the vegetation and return all the nutrients and organic matter back into the soil. Or second, you can plan to cut the hay from the grove but increase the amount of N and K you apply in the spring to compensate for expected nutrient removal.