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July 3, 2014
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. -- Phosphorus is an essential nutrient for plants, but too much
can mean trouble for waterways.
Phosphorus is critical to plant health and growth by helping the development of root
and increasing resistance to disease.
Pastures normally get phosphorus through fertilization because “the natural weathering
of rock is not sufficient to assure the high crop yields necessary,” said Dirk Philipp,
an assistant professor for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture.
In pastures, phosphorus tends to be concentrated in areas where grazing animals spend
more time such as travel lanes, ponds, shade and hay-feeding areas, he said.
When excess phosphorus washes into streams can cause eutrophication, Philipp said.
In eutrophication, excess phosphorus promotes the growth of algae and oxygen depletion
in lakes, leading to fish kills, he said. Other impacts of eutrophication include
the decline of biodiversity, change in species dominance and toxicity of the water.
Philipp suggested a couple methods that farmers and producers can do to retain phosphorus
on the farm and pastures.
The levels of phosphorus need to be monitored closely, he said. Testing different
parts along the site is helpful because some parts need higher phosphorus levels than
“Levels above 100 pounds per acre are considered high,” he said.
Avoid applying phosphorus fertilizer before heavy rains.
Keep heavily used areas away from sites prone to get run-off. Install buffer zones
along streams to slow runoff.
“Those buffer zones don’t have to be fancy,” Philipp said. “A single polywire will
work and cattle can still graze those areas when the soil is dry.”
In order to filter out sediments and hold back runoff, grass strips can be used. These
strips can be established in low-laying areas of pastures where runoff after heavy
rains would naturally occur.
Avoid overstocking and muddying up of grazing grounds, he said. Keep forage canopy
at 4 inches or more to prevent bare soil.
Moving feeders and hay rings regularly can help distribute phosphorus. Managing the
distribution of phosphorus for grazing pastures is important because the ingested
phosphorus will be excreted in a concentrated fashion, he said.
For more information about pastures, soil test, and water pollution, visit www.uaex.uada.edu, or contact your county extension office.
The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture offers its programs to all
eligible persons regardless of race, color, national origin, religion, gender, age,
disability, marital or veteran status, or any other legally protected status, and
is an Equal Opportunity Employer.
By Kezia NandaFor the Cooperative Extension ServiceU of A System Division of Agriculture
Media Contact: Mary HightowerDir. of Communication ServicesU of A Division of AgricultureCooperative Extension Service(501) firstname.lastname@example.org