Whitetail News Vol 30.1

Page 24

$14 Can Deliver Your Best Hunting Ever (And Peace of Mind) By Whitetail News Staff

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hen compared to the total amount we spend each year on hunting, the $14 cost of a professional Whitetail Institute laboratory soil test is extremely small. Even so, that tiny expense can yield a wide array of benefits to your hunting as well as your peace of mind. Benefits to Hunting It’s no secret that in most cases, high-quality food plots are the best way to quickly attract deer to a property. It stands to reason, then, that if we want to maximize attraction, our food plots need to be as lush, thick and palatable as possible. Of all the factors you can control to maximize forage growth, making sure soil pH and “soil fertility” (the levels of essential nutrients in the soil) are optimum is the most important and can only be addressed with complete accuracy by a qualified soil testing laboratory. The importance of soil pH and fertility and their interaction is one of the most important things in food plotting, and it’s easy to understand why. Obviously, forage plants must be able to freely uptake nutrients from the soil if they are to grow optimally. There are two parts to that: (1) the essential nutrients must be present and at optimum levels in the soil, and (2) they must be freely available for uptake. First Key Understanding: Soil pH plays a critical role in forage growth. Nutrients in the soil are free for uptake by high-quality forage plants only if soil pH is neutral (6.5-7.5). Acidic soil pH (soil pH below 6.5) acts as a roadblock to nutrient uptake in that soil nutrients are bound up in a way that plants can’t freely access them. Low soil pH can be corrected by disking or tilling the appropriate amount of lime into the soil in advance of planting. Second Key Understanding: There is no standardized chart that tells you precisely how much lime you should add to your specific soil based solely on its existing soil pH because soils widely differ in their ability to hold lime activity. Third Key Understanding: Soils also differ widely in the levels of essential nutrients they hold and in how well (or poorly) they can hold the fertilizer you add. Fourth Key Understanding: Fertilizer needs aren’t the same for all types of food plot plantings.

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When you consider all that together, you can see that a laboratory soil test’s greatest benefit to ensuring optimum food plot growth is its accuracy. Lime and fertilizer recommendations in a laboratory soil test report are developed by analyzing the actual soil from your plot to determine its existing soil pH and fertility, the soil’s ability to hold lime and fertilizer, and the specific fertilizer requirements of the planting. That accuracy lets you ensure that your food plot planting can grow thick and lush and be as attractive as possible.

Peace of Mind Your Wallet! We’ve talked about the benefits of precision in determining what lime and/or fertilizer your food plot may need. Consider that this precision also lets you avoid buying lime and fertilizer that you really DON’T need. To explain, each Whitetail Institute food plot product comes with a set of seedbed preparation and planting instructions right on the bag, and they aren’t all the same. As I mentioned earlier, all forage plantings for deer don’t have the same optimum fertilizer requirements. Recognizing the importance of ensuring optimum soil pH and fertility, and that laboratory soil testing may not be available in a limited number of situations, the Whitetail Institute also provides default lime and fertilizer recommendations in each set of instructions. It’s important to understand that these default recommendations are designed to cover the majority of cases. If the default recommendations are precisely what’s needed in a given case, it will be purely a matter of chance. Anyone who has ever planted food plots knows that lime and fertilizer can be expensive. If you don’t actually need to add lime and/or www.whitetailinstitute.com