So many food plotters ask me what they should plant now. My response usually starts with a set of questions such as, what did your soil test say and where do you live. The conversation usually ends with me discussing your goals. What I want more people to understand is how what you do now will affect the future. In today's blog i'll walk you through some things many overlook, in hopes that you will think more like a farmer.
When you plant your food plots, people focus on what growth they see and base their food plot's success on the present growth but let's look at other considerations. If you plant your plot mixes and see good growth, how is that growth going to affect your plots next year? For example, if you do not put enough fertilizer down, you might see decent growth this year. By mining the soil, your depleting your soils reserves. This will have an effect next year, especially if you didn't take another soil test to see what you have going into the season. This is why you need to continue to keep your soil balanced as to not have a lot of excess soil nutrients but also not remove so much that it will challenge your next seasons growth.
I formulate my food plot mixes differently than most companies in the industry and here is the rhyme and reason behind them. I am a nutritionist and agronomist, so i look at all angles of production. I always want something that tolerates wet as well as dry conditions. I want each season to fixate nitrogen and add organic matter to the soil. I also try to use forages that will grow fast so as to suppress weeds now and into the future. I also want forages that are fast growing but also will regrow in the future as they get consumed by your wildlife. This is called the cafeteria style approach and usie of
bio diversity. I consider this mix balancing and by doing this, your setting yourself up for future success.
A fall blend of mine that I love is fall draw. This year in particular it's handling the extreme wet conditions better than my grains and greens and frosty delight because there is crimson and berseem clovers in it. As the fertilizers have been washed out of the root zone, there still is nitrogen fixation taking place and this has the fall draw plots looking greener and more healthy than the other brasssica blends.
Let's explore my grains and greens. The science behind that mix is the oats and triticale give the wildlife current forage but whatever they don't consume this season will become organic matter for the soil. The forage peas in the mix gives current nutrition to the wildlife but it also is fixating nitrogen which will help you for the future. The radish in the mix will give current top growth but the roots drill deep and help loosen the soil. They also uptake nutrients and store those in the root, which will becomes rereleased next spring as these roots rot away and break down. This in a way acts as time release fertilizer. Lastly, the turnips in the mix give current forage growth but the bulb portion of the plant will give our wildlife a valuable energy source during the winter months.
Lastly, the frosty delight gives one the radishes for now and the future, the kale, winfred brassica and the forage turnip which give early season nutrition for the now but they also stay green down to 5-10 degrees which helps us for later in the season.
Another product i released in 2016 is the soil builder mix. This mix gave people peas, oats, triticale, buckwheat and annual clovers for spring forage but it also fixated a lot of nitrogen for future crops as well as provided weed suppression which will help people for the future. Lastly, the annual clovers continued to regrow after grazings or clipping the mix, which continue to add a food source as well as a nitrogen fixation source. When i overseeded frosty delight into this mix in august, we saw a really healthy growth from the "new crop" as the soil was set up for success.
So, as i finish this blog, ponder what you plant the current season but think about what you want to plant there next year and the year after. You will want to practice "plot rotation", your version of a farmer practicing crop rotation. This is good management practice and good land stewardship. It helps you become a conservationist and will reduce your reliance on chemicals and reduce the out of pocket expenses for fertilizer.
Have a great day!