The importance of planning wildlife plots cannot be over emphasized. Careful planning can be the difference between successful plantings that provide quality nutrition and survival to wildlife in comparison to plots that offer very little or no benefit. Maximum production is not the top priority of food plots. Therefore, variety selection is not critical. What is very important, however, is proper fertilization and weed control. The presence of some weeds actually benefits wildlife by providing additional cover and food, but too many weeds create excessive competition.
No soil is perfect. Rain and previous growth will remove nutrients and affect pH. Proper fertilization of wildlife food plots allow crops to grow fast and strong. Deficient soil nutrient levels result in weak and stunted plants. To determine the amount of fertilizer required for the food plot, a simple soil test is needed. The soil test will give a recommendation for the amount of fertilizer and lime to be applied for the specific crop to be planted.
Real Deal G2 Seeds offers a soil analysis kit designed specifically for wildlife food plots. The Real Deal G2 Seeds Food Plot Kit involves collecting samples of soil from your food plots, filling out a form describing your plans for the plot, and mailing the samples to the lab for analysis. Once the lab makes an appraisal of the soil, you will receive a soil sample report containing the soil analysis results along with fertilizer and lime recommendations to maximize its growing potential. The results obtained from the Soil Test Report will tell you the pH (level of soil acidity), organic matter content, and phosphorus and potassium levels in the soil of your plot field. This valuable information will help you decide what to apply for lime, fertilizer and what crops to plant in each particular field based on pH, as some crops are more pH sensitive than others.
Interpreting Wildlife Food Plot Lab Results
Once you receive your test report, an important measurement to pay attention to is the pH. Soil pH affects the plant’s ability to absorb nutrients and grow. A common problem with many soils is that they are too acidic (which means they have a low pH). In fact, it’s quite common for soil test reports to come back recommending three tons of lime per acre! Too much lime is rarely a problem, so don’t worry if you think you put out slightly more lime than the soil report recommends.
A soil pH of 7.0 is considered neutral and is ideal for growing many agricultural crops such as alfalfa, while a soil pH of 6.0 is considered adequate for growing most food plot crops. A soil with a pH of 5.0 is 10 times more acidic than a soil with a pH of 6.0, and many of the nutrients in the soil will not be available to the crops because they will be tied up in the soil solution. Raising the soil pH makes the soil less acidic, releasing more nutrients allowing them to be available to a growing crop. Other benefits include improved bacterial activity and nitrogen fixation by legumes along with improved physical condition of the soil. We accomplish this by adding lime and mixing it into the soil.
Spreading lime on the surface of your plots and tilling it in is the best way to correct a low pH field. Whether the lime is referred to as aglime, barn lime, high-calcium, pel-lime or something else, there is little difference in the ability of the liming material to correct the pH of the soil. What can make a difference is the particle size, which relates to how fast the material will be dissolved in the soil solution. A coarse lime (60-69) will take longer to have the same effect as a fine aglime (80-89). Pel-lime is a fine lime that has been pelleted and will perform equal to a fine aglime. As a rule the lime you apply will take 6-24 months to dissolve and have an effect on neutralizing soil acidity. A common misunderstanding when liming is that the lime spread on the surface will be carried down through the top 6-7 inches of topsoil with rain water. This is not the case. Lime in any form will move very little in the soil profile and must be tilled and mixed with the topsoil to have the desired effect. Does this mean that lime applied to the surface and not mixed in is wasted? No, it just means you won’t see much neutralizing effect until the soil is tilled mixing the top layer with lime throughout the 6-7 inches of topsoil.
In acidic soils, the nitrogen and phosphorus will be bonded to the soil and will be unavailable for the plant. Even when fertilizer is applied, only a small amount can be used by the plant and the rest will remain locked in the soil particles. Lime raises the pH level unlocking soil nutrients and helping in the breakdown of organic matter for use by the plants.
Taking the time to properly test your soil can be the most important thing you do this spring. Understanding your soil pH and what your phosphorus and potassium fertility levels can help you make a better decision of what to plant, which fertilizer blend to use, and whether or not you need to apply lime. The information obtained from a soil test provides a roadmap for achieving successful food plots. You put a lot of effort and expense into striving for the best food plots possible. Don’t overlook the first and most important step.
How to Collect Wildlife Food Plots Soil Samples
For every 1 to 3-acre food plot, it is recommended that you collect 10 to 20 subsamples of soil. First, remove any plant residue from the ground. Using a shovel, garden spade, or soil probe, make a vertical core or thin slice down to the depth that will be plowed, which is typically about 4 inches. Place the subsample into a clean bucket and mix it well. Be sure the soil is not excessively wet and use a clean bucket without lime, fertilizer, or pesticide residue because this will skew the lab results. Next, mix the soil thoroughly and pack the soil into the bag provided in the Wildlife Food Plot Kit. Then use the pre-paid mailer box to send your sample and submittal form to the lab.
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