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BY Morgan Tyler on Oct. 01, 2010

I Can’t Take It Anymore!

We’ve all been there. Work, kids, spouses, bills, traffic, that bolt that won’t break loose…we’ve all been stressed to the point of screaming at times in our lives. Many hunters have gone through those same feelings when trying to establish and maintain healthy plots, I know I have. What about our food plots? If you thought you were stressed, then think about all the stresses our plants go through. Poor or compacted soils, too hot, too cold, too much or too little moisture, heavy foraging just after emergence, the list goes on and on. So what can we do to eliminate those food plot soil stresses?
 What we must remember is that the critical period for determining how successful our food plots will be is in the first few days and weeks after planting and plant emergence. Farmers deal with many of the same issues with their crops. These issues are why DeltAg worked for years to develop products that help reduce that stress to our seedling crops. Let’s look at a few simple steps that will help to eliminate these stresses and improve your success.
 It all begins with the soil. Let’s compare food plots to building a home. Think of your soil as the foundation for a strong home. For long-term success, we must have a strong foundation. The key to success is the soil itself. The importance of doing a soil test and following its recommendations can not be over-emphasized. Also, deep tillage to break up hard pans and efforts to open the soil surface to store moisture during the growing season can also be critical in many areas.
 What about the “health” of the soil itself? Soil health is determined by micro-flora in the soil. What the heck is micro-flora? The micro-flora is all of the micro-organisms that allow soils to function and grow healthy plants. It consists of bacteria, algae, fungus, mold, yeast and even beneficial nematodes. All of this micro-flora must be present for our plants to be able to respond to our fertilizers as well as to compost old plant residue and convert it to usable fertilizer for the next crop. They also help our soils to hold more moisture.
 So what does that all mean? We all know that wonderful aroma when we first disk our ground in the spring time. That smell is caused when we expose micro-flora to the air. Where things get interesting is when we go back a few weeks later, turn the soil and there is no aroma. What happened? When we initially disked the soil we exposed the micro-flora to the air thus killing quite a bit of it. When their numbers are lowered from disking, fertilizing, spraying weed killers, our overall soil health is damaged. This is why we often see soils that are tight, cloddy, compacted and difficult to work up for the next crop.
 To cure or prevent this, if you have a proposed plot lined up for a late summer/fall planting what seems to work best is clipping in mid-summer. Then apply DeltAg’s Soil Solution and disk the old residue into the soil. This helps “feed” the bacteria in our soils, thus breaking down old crop residue, improving aeration and moisture, while helping to eliminate the clods and compaction. By the time we come back in six or eight weeks, we simply level out our soil and plant the fall crop on a very nicely prepared seed bed.
 Now that we’ve helped reduce stress issues in our soil, what can we do to get our plants off to a better start? If you wish to have healthy plants they MUST have a healthy inception! Planting methods can have a big impact. Let’s face it; most of us don’t have a 60 horsepower tractor, disk, chisel, grain drill, or cultipacker to help us along. Therefore, many food plots are disked lightly and planted with ATV spreaders or hand seeders, or even tossed out by hand. Then they are dragged or driven over. I’m not saying that plots can’t be planted in this manner, but let’s be honest, it’s not ideal. Better seed-to-soil contact means better results.
 There are other issues, such as timing or not understanding the product well enough. Since we all aren’t professional property managers or we are absentee land owners, we often work a plot on the weekend, or when we can find the time and not when soil and planting conditions are ideal. Then, there are the many seed blends comprised of both, large and small seeds. In some blends there are seeds that should b e covered an inch or more and others that should be barely covered at all. This all makes it hard for some fields to get off to a good start.
 The first step to a healthier start is a “well prepared” seed bed. This is one that has been broken, chiseled and disked (or tilled) well in advance of planting. I mean like two months ahead. BEFORE planting…not the same weekend that we plant. This will allow for proper breakdown and composting of the old plant residue that is turned under from the previous crop or from previous summer weed growth. This also allows for rainfall and disking to break down the clods and create a fairly smooth layer of soil in which to plant. When we’re in a rush the result is planting in a rough and tumble, cloddy soil. Our seed ends up either on top or three or four inches deep. We have just assured ourselves that our food plot will have stress…and lots of it.
 A healthy food plot begins before germination. Every seed we plant has a specific amount of energy it can use to get up, out of the ground and growing. Simply put, large seeds have more energy and smaller seeds have less, this is why smaller seeds need to be planted at a shallower depth. By planting “blends” we often have smaller seeds such as clover, brassica, and chicory planted too deep, or larger seeds such as peas, beans or oats planted too shallow. This is where many food plots get into trouble. What happens? In the case of the smaller seed planted too deep, the seed germinates and simply runs out of energy as it’s trying to get out of the ground.
 Then there is that time after a plant emerges and is trying to grow, where it appears to just sit there, not growing. Many farmers refer to this period as the “lag phase.” During this period, plants are very susceptible to stress, be it heavy foraging, lack of moisture, too much moisture, too cold, too hot, or other things that can cause a crop to fail. This is where DeltAg’s Seed Coat comes into play. It is used on any type of seed to help reduce or eliminate these problems. Seed Coat is an easy to use, inexpensive, dry powder that helps enhance plant emergence, root development and early growth as well as eliminating that “lag phase.”
 What about after plants emerge? Now that we’ve worked to improve soil moisture, reduce root restriction and given our seed more energy to grow, let’s work on keeping our food plots going strong. In many cases, especially with heavy wildlife populations, these plots have to withstand heavy foraging from wildlife in addition to possible harsh weather.
 In 2010, on DeltAg’s property in north Mississippi, it was so dry that for three weeks our plots were the only ones that were actually up and growing within several miles. We got hammered by deer within just a few days of emergence. Deer feeding on 2-leaf oats makes it almost impossible for the plants to continue to grow and put out additional foliage. In this situation we either need to protect the food plot from wildlife or try to speed up plant growth to try and get ahead of heavy foraging.
 There are many innovative ways to keep wildlife out of plots for a couple of weeks to help get them over that foraging hump that tends to deplete overall production. We have used plot-tape and spray method, electric fencing and even exclusion baskets to keep deer out. On two occasions, we actually used a spreader to apply corn around the perimeter daily to keep the deer busy until we could get some real growth on our plots. These methods add a little more labor, but they have all worked.
 Pushing the planted crop to grow faster or healthier is actually dependent on how much or little stress has occurred sense the seed actually germinated and emerged. Remember earlier we discussed seedling stress. The less stress, the healthier the plants will be and the quicker they will grow and develop. Make sure that you use a quality fertilizer, get it applied and disked into the soil before the crop actually needs it. Fertilizers, whether just nitrogen, like a 33-0-0 or a mixture with nitrogen included, like 13-13-13, must be covered with soil and will take anywhere from two to four weeks to become available to help plants grow. Ideally it’s best to apply your fertilizer and disk it into the soil at least three weeks before planting, and hopefully, rained on. Thus, when the crop emerges, it does not have to sit in this lag phase waiting on nitrogen to get the energy to grow, but it will come out of the ground growing. This is one way to help get ahead of heavy foraging.
 We try to work in our fertilizer several weeks before planting then once the plants are up out of the ground, we spray DeltAg’s Plant Power over the top to kick them into high gear. This can be a huge step in getting ahead of heavy foraging when you have high deer density in your area.  Plant Power is formulated to boost the overall health of the plant and help get the plant to grow and develop quicker, especially with stress factors like heavy foraging or rough weather.
 Enhance your native vegetation! One practice DeltAg started using several years back is that of managing native vegetation. At one point we were even chastised for fertilizing Kudzu. Yes, Kudzu! First, we made a new clipping path around a heavy bank (one acre) to keep the Kudzu from spreading into our pine plantation. Then we noticed the heavy browse line on the Kudzu. With the Kudzu isolated from spreading, it made perfect sense to enhance growth by fertilizing and spraying Plant Power…Wow, did it work!  Now, we literally drive down all of our roads in May of every year with a dry fertilizer buggy and fertilize along the road-sides in the woods. Then we follow that with a single nozzle sprayer on a four-wheeler applying Plant Power on most of our Beautyberry, Green Briar, Kudzu, Blackberry and Honeysuckle. I might also mention that this also takes pressure off of our summer plots as well as our September planted fall plots.
 Bow hunters have found that by spraying Plant Power with a Hand Sprayer on vegetation near their stand it will be more attractive to wildlife. This tactic may give you that extra edge in the woods, thus eliminating YOUR stress level.

Over the past 35 years the staff at DeltAg has researched and developed formulations to improve crop response to fertilizers, improve soils, reduce stress in crops, and increase yields for farmers.


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