“Top dress” fertilizer distribution begins today in Maryland

15 February 2024- The Maryland Department of Agriculture today announced 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, provided that crop and field conditions remain favorable.

University of Maryland researchers have determined that crop growth stages vary across the state. The Lower Eastern Shore of Maryland and Southern Maryland appear to have met the appropriate time to top-dress. However, the Maryland Department of Agriculture has given approval to all Maryland farmers to begin applying fertilizer to small grains, as long as crops have reached the “green-up” stage before applying fertilizer. The University recommends split applications of spring nitrogen with the first application occurring at “green-up” and the second application when the crops begin to joint. Check individual field conditions and avoid running heavy equipment across saturated soils.

The determination follows Maryland’s nutrient management regulations. As a reminder, manure may not be applied to fields until March 1.

For additional information on Maryland’s nutrient application requirements, contact the department’s Nutrient Management Program at 410-841-5959.