A little extra effort this fall can possibly pay big dividends by improving bromegrass and fescue production next year. The key lies hidden in the soil and can only be discovered by soil testing. A lot of producers tend to just put on nitrogen when they fertilize their brome and fescue pastures. In many cases, especially on older stands that have received nitrogen applications nearly every year, yields are limited more by low phosphorus levels than by nitrogen. Producers often don't realize this and just keep applying more and more nitrogen with disappointing results. The only way to discover a phosphorus deficiency is to have a soil test done. For brome and fescue, a routine test for phosphorus, potassium and pH is sufficient. A routine soil test will cost less than $10 per sample through most K-State Research & Extension offices. This test can reveal some surprising results. I would estimate that at least half the samples from brome and fescue pastures that I see test low or very low in phosphorus. This certainly limits production potential. If phosphorus is low, you do not get good efficiency from the nitrogen that you do apply. On these fields, a phosphorus application can help increase yields and make nitrogen more effective. In other words you'll get more bang for your buck. It may not be obvious, but brome and fescue remove more phosphorus from the soil than grain crops in many cases. About 10 to 12 pounds of phosphate per ton of production are removed through haying and grazing, and must be replaced. Phosphorus is needed by the plant for root development and energy transfer. A soil test should be done during the next few weeks if possible. The necessary nutrients could then be applied this fall, after the grass goes dormant for the winter and before the ground freezes. Nitrogen would still need to be applied early next spring for next year's growth. However, getting the needed phosphorus and potassium applied this fall can help those cool-season grasses get a head start on next years growth by helping build the root system this fall and winter. Fortunately, phosphorus does not have to be incorporated into the soil to improve pasture production. Brome, fescue and other grasses have extensive root systems near the surface and are very good at utilizing surface-applied phosphorus. For additional information on soil testing or pasture management, visit with your local Extension agent. Information is also available at the K-State Research and Extension website which is www.ksre.ksu.edu. For more information feel free to contact Wildcat Extension District agent Scott Gordon in Independence by calling (620) 331- 2690 or by email at sgordon@ksu.edu. You may also contact Keith Martin in Altamont - (620) 784-5337, rkmartin@ksu.edu; or Josh Coltrain in Girard - 620-724-8233, jcoltrain@ksu.edu . We also offer programs in Family Consumer Science, 4-H and Youth, and horticulture. Program information and additional contacts can be found on our website www.wildcatdistrict.ksu.edu.