Dirt. A Deeper Look Part 2 “Build a strong foundation and you become unshakeable.” I know that doesn’t sound like something straight out of your typical hunting article, with fps ratings and the promises of “use our product, it will add 200 inches of bone in one month”, but it definitely bears repeating. Texas says it best, “Don’t be all hat and no cattle.” Knowing what kind of foundation you have and what’s going on in that foundation is important. The foundation we’re talking about today is the very foundation you stand on while you’re hunting, fishing, or just taking a stroll through the woods, the ground.
University tests have revealed that plants only use forty percent of the recommended amount of fertilizer during the growing season. So next time the guy behind the counter tells you that you need X amount of fertilizer be sure to ask him why, and keep the questions coming. Soil tests are a big recommendation to customers by many
companies, and I agree that soil tests are important, but those same companies turn around and try to sell the same customers liquid fertilizer. There is no real equation to convert what the soil test says to apply in conventional fertilizer into a liquid application, not to mention that plant must still process it through its roots. With the university tests in mind, the typical practice of spreading three hundred pounds of NPK all at one time is actually throwing away sixty percent of our time and money. Be sure when dealing with potential sellers of fertilizer, you know which ones will work best for your soil, and keep an open mind to learning new things.
In my last article, we took a look at our soils origins and makeup. Now I want to dig a little bit deeper into the importance of organic matter and the humus layer of soil. Organic matter is made up of decaying plants and animals, large and small, each with great importance. As well as these remains, there are colonies of millions of microscopic organisms that work with and for each other, benefiting our soils and our plants. Soil microbes convert organic matter into the humus fraction of the soil, which holds water and nutrients in the root zone. Water, being the most important element on the planet to every living thing, shows the importance of a healthy humus fraction in the soil.
Paying more attention to these things and applying good management practices will add sustainability to our soils. Here are five of the many benefits to the presence of organic matter in the soil.
Soil microbes work to make unavailable nutrients more available to plants by breaking down fertilizer and other nutrients to a usable form.
Microbes can be the first line of defense against disease. The can help control many soil borne pests like nematodes, root diseases, and insects like white grubs. Some microbes produce antibiotics, which kill pathogens or other microbes that try to inhabit their space. This relates to our whitetails by feeding them quality groceries and not having to replant due to crop loss.
Microbes reduce the amount of fertilizer needed by up to fifty percent if a program to make them more efficient is used. This, in turn reduces your cost and energy usage.
Microbes digest, degrade, and disassociate many forms of salt and chemical residue. This process helps change the soils pH and the charge of soil particles from positive to negative, and negative to positive. This frees many nutrients which were previously tied up to soil particles, making them unavailable for uptake. All soil nutrients must be degraded or digested by microorganisms from either an organic or inorganic source before they can become a part of the soil solution for plant use.
Microbes increase water penetration by breaking up soil crust over time. This also helps in wasted fertilizer due to run off, absorbing it into the soil.
Biological soil inoculants are not miracle potions or the answer to all of our problems, but for the very best results, they should be used in any fertilizer program. As food plotters or any kind of farmer for that matter, ignoring organic matter in our soils will only cost us more time, money, and the potential to grow even larger antlers and healthier herds and crops. I hope this information aids your endeavors, whether they involve growing trophy whitetail, or just better management of your garden at home.