Soil Test

Food plots take time, effort and money to create. Most food plotters have the best intentions in mind when planting their crops. They desire to draw deer to their property and hold them there for hunting purposes at the bare minimum. However, a land manager grows food plots for the same reason, plus to provide the best nutrition possible throughout the year. The only way to properly do this is to ensure that your soil is optimal to produce the most nutrient-rich crop and to ensure the plot continues to produce under heavy grazing pressure. In essence, a land manager is trying to accomplish the same thing a farmer is — maximizing yields.

You won’t catch a farmer trying to grow a crop without having his soil tested. A food plotter should think the same way. A soil test will reveal the amount of nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium (NPK) your soil needs as well as tell you what your soil’s pH is and how much lime it will take to correct it. Whatever you do, don’t skip the lime recommendation!

Most soils that haven’t been amended in the past will fall into the acidic range — a pH measurement of less than 7.0. The pH scale ranges from 0 to 14 (with 7 being neutral) and is a measure of acidity and alkalinity. Ironically, many food-plot crops thrive around the neutral range.

So, what happens if you plant crops in an acidic soil? If your soil has a pH of 6.0, then about 20 percent of the fertilizer you put out is never used by the plant — it’s completely wasted. If your pH is 5.0, then you’ve wasted 50 percent of your fertilizer application. A pH level of 4.5 (which is not an uncommon measurement in the Southeast) will waste 70 percent of your fertilizer. An easier way to interpret this, you waste 70, 50 or 20 percent of the money you paid for that expensive fertilizer.

Moultrie ATV

It’s nothing to pay $30 to $40 per hundred pounds of 13-13-13 fertilizer. In many soils you’ll typically need around 300 pounds of 13-13-13 per acre for common food plot crops, too. In comparison, 1 ton of lime cost about $30 to $40 and that usually includes the cost of renting the lime buggy from your local co-op to apply it with. The good news is, the lime will typically last for several years before another application is needed, too (hence the need for regular soil test). For hard-to-reach food plots, where it would be impossible to haul a large lime buggy, an ATV SPREADER is the ideal tool for spreading bagged pelletized lime.

You can obtain a soil test kit from your local county extensions office or you can purchase a Whitetail Institute Soil Test Kit  for hunters. The price of the Whitetail Institute (WTI) kit includes the soil analysis and everything you’ll need. Plus, the WTI analysis will come back with amounts per acre of NPK and lime needed to amend your soil — just like your state’s soil test lab will do — but WTI’s will also give you your amount per 1,000 sq. ft., too. This is nice for guys who are planting smaller kill plots that are less than an acre in size. Turnaround is about a week with this kit.