09 February 2023- The Maryland Department of Agriculture (MDA) announced today that farmers who planted small grains for harvest last fall may “top dress” these crops with commercial fertilizer in accordance with their nutrient management plans beginning February 15 as long as ground conditions remain favorable. This determination follows Maryland’s nutrient management regulations and is based on research conducted by University of Maryland plant experts. As a reminder, manure may not be applied to fields until March 1.
Each year, researchers at the University of Maryland examine soil temperatures and crop growth over the winter to estimate when small grains will emerge from dormancy. According to data from University of Maryland researchers, commercial fertilizer may be safely applied to small grains in mid February, at which time these plants will have absorbed all available nutrients in the soil and will require additional nutrients to keep growing. The University of Maryland cautions farmers to check individual field conditions and avoid running heavy equipment across saturated soils.
The University of Maryland also recommends split applications of spring nitrogen with the first application occurring on or soon after February 15 and the second application when the crops begin to joint.
For additional information on Maryland’s nutrient application requirements, please contact the MDA Nutrient Management Program at 410-841-5959. Farmers with fields that are not suitable for harvest should contact their crop insurance agent for guidance.