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No Till Food Plots - So Easy

at1010

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With these warm temps, I opted out of hunting and took a trip to the farm to get some work done. The main goal was to get cameras up, analyze browse pressure so I can ensure my goal for doe harvest this year is accurate, and overseed rye grain in areas where weeds or browse pressure has been dominant.

My theory is to use rye grain and the allelopathic traits it offers to help suppress heavy weeded areas, the following spring. For those that don't know, allelopathy is directly correlated to the root acid exudates that are pumped into the soil but this positive impact only helps suppress weed seeds in the soil profile, and will not "kill off" weeds that are already established. If you have an area that is heavily dominated by a specific weed - you can look to correct this weed prevalence by correcting nutrient max/min in the soil profile, spray herbicide, or, like I like to do, a mixture of both. I digress.

So let's look at the importance of exclusion fences. If I just looked at this plot - I would possibly assume a nutrient deficiency, spend money on N (cause that is always what is promoted to help grow brassicas), etc. However, what is really happening here? Well - I need to either plant more food, harvest more does, or both. I plan to do both as my time permits in the future.

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at1010

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There is some really bad information in the "deer world" that states you cannot mix grains and brassicas. I am not sure who/why this was ever stated but I couldn't disagree more. To clarify, you cant mix grains and brassicas - at a full 1-acre seed rate per seed type, distributed on an acre.

Here is an example of a larger field (3-4 acres here planted + clover/alfalfa right away that is 20+ acres). Please excuse the AO - that will all be treated in time. Now you can see that this field isn't perfect, but that is mostly due to the broadcast method and deer browse. These brassicas are not lacking nutrients and I haven't spent a dime on fertilizer in 3 years. I am NOT anti fertilizer and I plan to continue to work on balancing base saturations (which I can explain more later). Anyhow, these brassicas are successful because of the previous crops that were planted here.

Although these pictures don't do this plot justice, if you got down you on your hands and knees - you would see rye, oats, triticale, buckwheat, brassicas, clovers, vetch, etc. All growing synergistically - this is allowing nutrient cycling to occur and replenish the soil as deer poop on the field, some biomass naturally rots, etc.

Keep in mind - the tonnage leaving the field from deer browse is very literally nutrients walking off the field as well. This is why we must monitor browse levels both on food plots and native habitats. I find these to be a far better indicator of deer populations than simply visual observations/camera observations - although I use a culmination of all to make my decisions on harvest goals.

Hope you all enjoy it! Thanks for following.

AT
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at1010

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For those who like videos. Here is a brief video I’ve done on the above theories.

 

Stressless

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Keene, OH
Exclusion cages = Truth. - Well done with the Plot Porn Bud! Dates on the farm/OH keep gettring pushed back due to work - really liking what you're showing - can't wait to see how my plots are doing - almost the same scenario but with with much less science/which I'm working to rectify.
 
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at1010

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Exclusion cages = Truth. - Well done with the Plot Porn Bud! Dates on the farm/OH keep gettring pushed back due to work - really liking what you're showing - can't wait to see how my plots are doing - almost the same scenario but with with much less science/which I'm working to rectify.

Like with most things in life, take a little and leave the rest! I am not an exception, born with the gift of gab and hope to help folks just a little bit, often probably giving more ramblings then needed, lol! I appreciate you following along.
 

at1010

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Soil profile impacting what deer choose to eat? Possibly - see video and observations I’ve made there.
 

at1010

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Here is another short video I did diversity and why you can make diverse mixes work!

 

at1010

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Ok - so I don't put people on blast, that isn't my goal but I have to share.

I have seen a lot of "trophy photos" of food plots recently and what follows is a blind fertilizer recommendation, for example - put down X amount of N per acre and you to can grow this crop! Also, typically some seed blend is then promoted thereafter.

Please do not do this - before taking on a fertilizer recommendation, we must get a soil sample. Even a conventional soil sample doesn't account for all the organic N in the soil - this is why guys like Dr. Rick Haney, John Kempf, etc. are finding that most often we are over-applying N - this is just a waste of money, not to mention other ecological potential harms. This is also why farmers stagger N applications, starter, foliar, band some on, etc. They don't just DUMP N on the ground and hope for the best.

Most conventional tests only account for Nitrate N in the soil. Nitrate N is also the most likely to leach, and least stable N source. Urea, for example, is in amid form- which is quickly converted to nitrate by soil microbes. This is why UREA is often mentioned as evaporating quickly. If we can work UREA into the soil, we are more likely to have it converted to ammonium - which is a far more stable N source - compared to nitrates. Most of the time we are not able to work it into the soil, as it is being top-dressed after planting.

So what happens to that extra N?
Well, it leaches out - and can add to the pollution of our rivers that many housing developments and other reasons are already exacerbating by over-fertilization.
Some of it will just evaporate - which is a total waste of money.
An overabundance of N can also drive CA (calcium) of the soil colloid, driving up the MG levels in the soil - which can lead to compaction, poorer aggregation, etc.
An overabundance of N can also make our plants lazy. We want our plants to exude acids/sugars/carbon into the soil profile to communicate with our microbiology, and take advantage of the organic forms of N (amino acid proteins) - not solely being reliant on being force-fed.
There is also the threat of REDOX reactions (oxidation) occurring when we over-apply salt-based fertilizers which will cause oxidation to occur- this reduces microbial activity and binds up needed nutrients like iron, making them insoluble.

All this to say, when in doubt - get a soil test. If you are really interested in what is missing, pull some leaf samples and send those in for plant tissue/sap eval.

Interesting link explaining the nitrogen cycle:

Food for thought.

AT
 

at1010

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Deer don’t eat brassicas until first frost? I’ve never seen this to ever be true. In most cases - in good soil conditions, the brassicas will be a highly desirable food source. With the correct balance of carbon to nitrogen ratios, balanced soil saturations, and diversity - we can accomplish great yields, with minimal outputs.
 
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at1010

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I loved this quote I had to share

“when wildlife demonstrates the soil as the foundation of its health and numbers,is man, the apex of the biotic pyramid too far removed from the soil to recognize it as the foundation of his health via nutrition”

William Albrecht
 

at1010

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Well it was about time for an update

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October 7th

Sunday
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This is a representation of what happens when there is simply more deer than food. In 6 weeks this area went from 3+ acres of high quality, diverse mixed plants, to dirt.

The average whitetail (let's assume 150lbs) will eat 6-8% of their body weight per day - That is near 10lbs per day! If you have 20 deer on your farm (many areas of Ohio have more than that), that is 200lbs per day of forage needed to sustain the highest quality habitat and genetic potential of the localized herd. Now some of those 20 deer will be smaller, but some will be bucks and much larger than 150lbs, so we are talking averages here.

The ONLY thing I can do on my farm to help my local herd out is to plant more food, shoot more does, or both. I plan to do both in 2022.

Lastly, this type of browse will surely negatively impact my goal of bettering the soil. There will be very limited OM to return back to the soil, much of these plants are browsed far past their ability to rebound and photosynthesize, which is reducing root exudates from flowing - most likely causing microbe populations to degrade or at best case scenario, stay on par.

I share this last paragraph to give one quick example of how all ecosystems are interconnected. Remember, healthy - well-fed deer are not stressed deer, and not stressed deer allow epigenetic triggers to be switched on, allowing for the optimal genetic potential to be achieved, in time.

Stay safe and well.

Build better soil!
 
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Ohiosam

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Mahoning Co.
“Lastly, this type of browse will surely negatively impact my goal of bettering the soil. There will be very limited OM to return back to the soil, much of these plants are browsed far past their ability to rebound and photosynthesize, which is reducing root exudates from flowing - most likely causing microbe populations to degrade or at best case scenario, stay on par.”

Not really. Most plants produce as much organic matter below the surface (the root system) as they do above the surface. I see no bare soil and lots of OM left.
 
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at1010

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“Lastly, this type of browse will surely negatively impact my goal of bettering the soil. There will be very limited OM to return back to the soil, much of these plants are browsed far past their ability to rebound and photosynthesize, which is reducing root exudates from flowing - most likely causing microbe populations to degrade or at best case scenario, stay on par.”

Not really. Most plants produce as much organic matter below the surface (the root system) as they do above the surface. I see no bare soil and lots of OM left.

That is so true! Great additions.

l will try to further elaborate on why I made that comment for anyone interested.

I believe the below soil OM produced through root exudates is far greater in tonnage than above-ground biomass - although both are important. This is why previous studies used to think that it took 100s of years to increase OM - this has been disproven now as more studies are finding that root exudates and functioning, balanced systems can exponentially increase OM levels. Dale Strickler from Green Cover seed is worth a listen if anyone cares.

Due to the heavy amount of browse, I am unable to have photosynthesis occurring all season long. The rye, for example, would try to bolt, on a nice warm day - produce root exudates and feed the microbes and fungal networks that rely on those. I most likely won't have that benefit as there is a lot of pasture management studies that show once a plant is beyond 70% browsed it will no longer continue to grow and or produce root exudates, at 50% browse it will return, and so on. This is very well may impact the Spring green-up of my cover crop as well - reducing the number of exudates being pumped into the system, feeding the fungal networks, etc.

Overall I don't expect a negative impact on my soil but I don't believe I am working towards optimization with this type of browse. Hopefully, this helps explain myself better. I am thankful for the OM that is left on top (for now) that Sam mentioned.

Thank you all who follow along.

AT