Ag news: Fertilizing the lawn

Brownwood Bulletin
Scott Anderson

Fertilizing is not so “one size fits all” as we would sometimes like for it to be. Every environment is different with its own expectations, use, history, and needs. Remember that the health of your turfgrass is heavily dependent on the soil it is being grown on. Look for a custom approach that is specifically catered to your turfgrass area. Start by testing your soil. For information on soil testing, visit the Soil, Water, and Forage Testing Laboratory website: http://soiltesting.tamu.edu/ or contact the Brown County Extension Office for more information.

Soil tests will give you a feel for some of the characteristics of your soil that are important for growing healthy plants including soil pH, soil salinity, and the relative abundance of the major

nutrients your turfgrass needs to survive. While there are approximately 18 plant essential nutrients, primarily, we focus on a select few: nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium (N-P-K) are the three primary macronutrients that are available in most fertilizer products. The analysis or grade

on the fertilizer bag is indicative of the ratio of (N, P, and K). So, a product with a grade of 15-5-10 has a 3-1-2 ratio of these nutrients. A 3-1-1 or 3-1-2 ratio fertilizer is usually recommended for home lawns in our area.

Other elements commonly looked at by urban soil tests include calcium, magnesium, sulfur, iron, zinc, manganese, copper, boron, and sodium. Sodium testing is conducted to shed light on soil quality as opposed to plant nutritional needs. Every element, or nutrient, has a key part to play and balance is important. Too much or too little of any one essential nutrient can have a negative effect on your turfgrass and its overall wellbeing.

It is possible to apply fertilizers at inappropriate times. Nitrogen, in particular, should be applied only during months of active growth. As a guide, use the first and last frost dates for your part

of the state. Your first fertilizer application of the year should come approximately 4 – 6 weeks after the last frost date, or once the grass has been mowed at least twice. Your last fertilizer

application should go out approximately 4 – 6 weeks before your first frost date. This will minimize winter injury and Disease risk. In our area we use March 20th as the last normal frost date. This year however, we had a frost in early April. November 15th is our date for average first frost in the fall. Use caution when purchasing or applying combination

products such as those which combine preemergent herbicides and nitrogen fertilizers, as it is often not appropriate or beneficial to apply these types of products simultaneously in a home lawn setting. Especially where yard trees are present.

Most people over fertilize their lawn. The recommended fertilizer application rate is 1lb of actual nitrogen per 1,000 sq feet of lawn. So, if you had a 50lb bag of 15-5-10 fertilizer it contains 7.5lbs of actual nitrogen. This one bag would cover 7500 sq feet of lawn.

HOW DOES YOUR STEAK GRADE?

Grocery meat counters are filled with beef steaks labeled Choice, and while many consumers rightfully associate the label as a good choice for grilling or the stovetop, they might not be familiar with industry quality standards behind the designation.

A beef steak’s tenderness, juiciness and flavor all affect its palatability, or the degree to which food and fluids are deemed desirable and satisfying to a person’s palate.

Those aspects are worth closer consideration by industry producers as well as consumers: More than 98% of American households purchased meat in 2020, and 43% of Americans now buy more meat than before the pandemic, according to the 2021 Power of Meat report conducted on behalf of the Food Industry Association. 

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has set quality grades that evaluate factors that could affect the palatability of the steak.

Beef carcass quality grades such as Choice are based off the degree of marbling — the amount of fat within the lean tissue of the muscle — and carcass maturity. Marbling is the single greatest factor to a steak’s palatability and is determined by an animal’s diet and genetics.

The USDA quality grades Prime, Choice and Select account for 90% to 95% of beef steaks in grocery meat counters. However, there are also beef quality grades of Standard, Commercial, Utility, Cutter and Canner. The latter five grades are for more mature carcasses, typically animals older than 42 months of age when harvested. Thus, any steak labeled Prime, Choice or Select likely comes from an animal less than 42 months old.

Key takeaways of the three most dominant beef quality grades commonly purchased by consumers include:

Prime – the highest-quality grade available. It contains the most marbling and, if prepared correctly, what numerous studies have found to be the most flavorful eating experience compared with other beef steaks. Steaks of this grade are quickly bought by five-star restaurants and upscale wholesalers. About 5% of young American cattle are graded as USDA Prime.

Choice – a high-quality steak that contains less marbling than Prime but is still very flavorful, tender and juicy when prepared properly. The amount of marbling can vary widely. Depending on the cut, a Choice steak may require slower cooking or a marinade to bring out its tenderness and flavor, compared to a Prime cut. The most commonly purchased type of steak at grocery stores, approximately 60% to 65% of young American cattle grade USDA Choice.

Select – formerly called Good, it still represents a quality meal. The reduced amount of marbling will be noticeable by simple visual inspection, compared to Prime or Choice steaks. Select cuts most often are either marinated or braised to achieve the best eating experience. Select steaks also benefit from longer cooking times at lower temperatures. Approximately 25% of the young American cattle grade USDA Select.

Standard and Commercial grades of beef are typically sold as ungraded or as store brand meat. Utility, Cutter and Canner grades of beef are seldom sold as steaks at retail outlets but are instead used to make ground beef or processed products.

If you want a great steak, start by picking up a high-quality cut of beef, fire up the grill, add some salt and pepper, and enjoy the flavors provided by its juiciness and marbling.