The Maryland Department of Agriculture (MDA) today announced temporary changes related to spring fertilizer application provisions in the 2011/2012 Winter Cover Crop Program. Due to the unusually warm winter weather, farmers planting small grain crops, such as wheat and barley, for harvest in the Commodity Cover Crop portion of the program will be allowed this year only to apply commercial fertilizer beginning February 15, rather than March 1 as originally stipulated. The restriction on the application of animal manures or other organic sources of nutrients to crop acres has not been changed and manure cannot be applied until March 1, in accordance with Nutrient Management regulations.
Commercial fertilizer may be applied to program cover crops acres that will be harvested at rates of no more than 40 pounds of nitrogen per acre. MDA advises that the commercial fertilizer applied include a denitrification inhibitor to reduce the risk of nitrogen loss.
“The unusually warm winter weather this year has allowed these crops to continue to grow, exhausting available crop nutrients. MDA, in collaboration with University of Maryland, College of Agriculture and Natural Resources scientists, is concerned that these crops will suffer production losses if not provided more crop nutrients,” said MDA Secretary Buddy Hance. “Science and crop conditions indicate these cover crops have absorbed the nutrients left in the soil last fall and farmers now must provide additional nutrients to keep them growing.”
MDA also reminds farmers that small grain acres not enrolled in the Cover Crop Program may receive an early spring application of fertilizer at “green up”. University of Maryland small grain researchers have been monitoring temperature conditions at locations across the state and advise that these crops are now at a critical stage of growth, requiring additional fertilizer to realize normal yield potential. Effective immediately, MDA advises an application of 40 pounds of nitrogen fertilizer, amended with a denitrification inhibitor, for this first spring application to reduce the risk of nitrogen loss. Farmers should continue to consult their nutrient management plans. Manure application is restricted until March 1 on non-program cropland, as well, in accordance with Nutrient Management regulations.
For additional information on Cover Crop Program provisions, contact MDA’s Maryland Agricultural Cost Share Program Office in Annapolis on 410-841-5864, or the local soil conservation district.
Any farmer or nutrient applicator with questions about winter application of fertilizers should contact a regional MDA nutrient management specialist. A regional contact list is available online at: http://www.mda.state.md.us/resource_conservation/nutrient_management/nm_regional_offices.pdf.