Seed is just the start
What seed should I plant on my property? This question we see posted all the time on social media. There is no way for anyone to honestly answer that simple question with any answer without follow up questions. That would be like asking what car should I buy. Let's explore this topic in more detail.
Seed is only the start. Seed needs moisture, seed to soil contact and temperate and then it will germinate and begin to grow. Once that seed sprouts, it's job is done. It's job is complete. What unfolds next helps it stand the test of time. Phase two is proper rooting. That seed needs to develop an effective root system to create a "powerhouse". Without a developed root system that forage can not effectively uptake nutrients. That plant can not effectively handle what mother nature throws at us. Stop and think about what happens when we have extended periods of drought. What will help keep that plant alive. An extensive root system that branches out wide and deep will help scavenge moisture and nutrients.
How to develop roots? I use growth promoters on many of my seeds I sell. These help develop a more complex and complete root system. You also need to have proper fertilization practices. The most important nutrient during this phase of plant development is phosphorous. You can achieve this by use of liquid or dry sources of phosphorous that need to be in the "root zone." That is essential and the most important thing during the first 2-3 weeks of plant development. Forages that need nitrogen, that becomes more important once we get roots tickled.
Proper soil pH, helps uptake of soil nutrients. This concept many digest but there is more to the equation. To get roots developed and shoots to establish, we need soil oxygen. We need loose soil that is not overly compacted. We need that shoot to be able to pop through the ground surface. Ground that has low soil organic matter levels, excess wheel traffic or periods of heavy rains, will have lower than ideal plot establishment. These forages might not even see the light of day.
95% of food plotters do not properly fertilize their food plots. I use these numbers because 95% of the soil samples I get back from new clients are deficient in 1 or more nutrients. Here is why this happens. There are few to no companies sampling with repetitions the mixes that they sell to the general public. They also do not measure yields. Without knowing how a blend yields and how it tests nutritionally, then you cannot fertilize without guessing. This is why I have research plots across the US. This is why I pull so many samples of individual forages as well as blends during various times during a year and for multiple years. The more data points, the better the predictability of growth. Only then can I have statistical confidence in what I am recommending.
What seed should I plant? Here is what I ask people to help me tilt the table in their favor to achieve success. Please provide a soil sample. Please provide an aerial map. Please tell me about your deer density. Do you have a budget? Do you have goals? Where are your deer stand locations? Are you open to suggestions? What equipment do you have? The list can go on and on depending on how important success is to the individual.
Seed is just the start.
The roots are the powerhouse