September is here and so is our typical start to fall fertilization. Many are asking, “should I fertilize drought stressed areas right now?” There are two strategies that could be used. First, you might consider applying 0.75 lbs N/1000 ft2 with some slow release N source. This should help to speed recovery when rains resume but minimize any leaf burn with a lower nitrogen rate and some slow-release nitrogen. Keep in mind that drought stressed plants will not take up nitrogen, and so a response to nitrogen fertilization will only occur after a rainfall occurs and the plant has a chance to take-up the nutrient. Additionally, some injury could occur to drought stressed areas from trafficking equipment across the site while fertilizing. A second strategy would be to wait to fertilize until after the turf greens-up after the next rainfall. Agronomically, the second option makes the most sense. However, some turf professionals may need to begin the fertilization process on some turf areas due to the large number of properties that they manage.
Hopefully, rains will return soon to central Indiana. On the bright side, we could be facing exceptional drought as they are in Oklahoma and Texas. Wow!
Dr. Aaron Patton, Turfgrass Extension Specialist