Ensure Your Food Plot Produces This Fall
By Jeremy Flinn, Professional Deer Biologist
It never ceases to amaze me. Every year, hunters will pour hundreds to thousands of dollars into food plot equipment and seed, not to mention all the time, and yet they never prep the “foundation” it all goes into…the soil. The fact is for about half as much as the seed you put into the ground, you can ensure that the environment the food plot seed is growing in can be capable of producing the maximum potential plot!
What does this include? Mainly determining the pH and nutrients, both macro and micro, available to the food plot.
Calcium and Lime
Soil acidity (pH) has been historically modified through lime. The “true” need is the calcium found in the lime. This is why it typically takes 6 months or more for lime to release its amending potential. Usually, this is the #1 food plot excuse. I forgot, followed by “it’s not worth me doing now” or “I’ll do it now.” Obviously, if you never do it then the pH will never amend. If you do it right before planting, most food plots will be dead before it ever has a positive effect.
However, new products, like PlotStart™ food plot sprays, allow you to apply instantly soluble calcium even at or after planting and begin to increase soil health while the plant is still growing. This is a huge advantage for liquid calcium products over traditional lime. Liquid lime products are available and can work fast, but will often leach through the soil within the growing season meaning you will be continually applying it to make sure it has an effect…a waste of money. Liquid calcium stays in the soil and though may require a supplement, will not completely leach through. In fact, the components in PlotStart™ help “free up” existing calcium in the soil that may have been unusable previously.
Nutrients and Fertilizers
Just like you, it is important for plants to have access to a wide array of macro- and micronutrients in order to express their potential. If you don’t care about having “healthy” plants then why are you planting them? Only healthy plants in a food plot will be attractive and nutritious to whitetails which are very selective feeders. There is energy spent when a deer eats a plant and then digests it to extract nutrients. If the nutrients in the plant will not “cover” the energy required to digest and extract the nutrients, then the deer will essentially starve itself to death.
In order for plants to be pumped full of nutrients, it is customary to fertilize food plots with N-P-K. This stands for Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Potassium which are the primary macronutrients needed for plants to grow. These are also critical for a deer to grow healthy and put on the inches of antler we all chase after every fall. As humans, we know the role of protein to help build muscle. In deer, protein is the root of body and antler growth. A plant’s level of crude protein is directly related to the % Nitrogen. If the plant is Nitrogen-deficient, then the amount of protein being passed to the deer is far below optimum; even in typical protein-packed plants like soybeans, clover, and alfalfa.
In order to absorb these critical nutrients, a plant must have many factors in check. These not only include the pH level of the soil (as mentioned above) but also micronutrients. These micronutrients are typically available in small amounts in the soil, and products like PlotBoost™ by DeerGro™, are able to provide more of these critical elements. In addition, the “Biological Factors” of the soil can determine the amount and rate at which plants’ roots can absorb nutrients. PlotBoost™ is a proprietary formula used to explode the biological activity in the immediate environment of the plants and allow them to take in an extraordinary amount of nutrients.
In order to grow better deer, you have to have better food. That primarily revolves around the native habitat, but often hunters lean heavily on food plots. In order to grow healthier food plots, you have to make sure the growing environment is prime. Using products to prep the soil conditions will allow plants to reach optimum attractiveness and nutrition, which can lead to bigger deer and better deer hunting.
For more information on PlotStart™ and PlotBoost™ by DeerGro™ visit www.deergro.com
Jeremy Flinn is a professional deer biologist in Missouri. He currently serves as the white-tailed deer expert for Outdoor Channel. You can see his weekly deer columns and featured articles starting in August 2014 at www.outdoorchannel.com.