Square Peg-Round Hole
On here as well as other social media sites we see people want to ask people what they should plant without providing us soil sample results, soil types, location and other factors. Shame on many of you for recommending your favorite clover blends. Here is what many overlook.
The nutrients levels of that forage you plant for the deer are dictated by the health and nutrient levels of the soil that the seed was planted in. If your soil is low on phosphorous, your plants will be low on phosphorous. If your soil is low in potassium, your plants will be low on potassium. In soils that are mined of 1 or multiple nutrients, there is no way that the forage grown on that land will be containing desirable amounts of those.
If your soil is low in soil organic matter and without adequate soil pH, you will not have good nutrient holding capacity nor nutrient uptake efficiency. For example, soil that is 5.0 pH will only uptake about 37% of the major minerals from the soil. If your soil organic matter levels are low, you will also see more potential for nutrient loss.
Now something many overlook. The most important thing after planting that seed is growing roots. Yep, root development is essential for all aspects of future growth. People may ooohh and awwww about seeing those forage shoots come out of the ground but that is short term and short lived if you don't build that powerhouse "engine" below the ground. If you do not have effective root growth than how can you have effective nutrient and water uptake?
For those with soil that is low on p and k. Planting highly nutritious forages would require a much higher budget. It also would challenge one from completely mining their soils. Here is an example. Many clovers and perennials will mine 120 pounds of true potassium and 12 pounds of phosphorous per an average of 2 ton of consumed growth. If you plant a higher yielding perennial mix yielding 4 ton of forage dry matter per acre per year, those numbers of nutrients removed are double.
For average yielding perennials, you would need to fertilize with 60 lbs of 0-20-20 and 180 lbs of 0-0-60 per acre per year. That isn't bad, right? Now if your yield is double, those numbers would need to be 120 lbs of 0-20-20 and 360 lbs of 0-0-60 per acre per year. I'd venture to say next to none of you are doing that. Note, these are the numbers you need to fertilize with just to "maintain." If you already start with lower nutrient levels and you want to try to get back to an average soil level, you would need to put down an additional 100-200 lbs of 0-0-60 and 100-200 lbs of 0-20-20.
So if someone asks what you should plant initially on mined soils, the answer should be "forages that are lower yielding and lower in nutrition." Stop and think about that. Your not ready to plant top end nutrition yet. You need to get your soil balanced first. Everyone wants to sell you that fancy bag of seed. Everyone wants to race to do better but it's a journey and a test of patience. Soil is a factory. You need to keep it balanced and feed it to get out of it what you need.
Soil first, then seed.