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No Till Food Plots - So Easy

at1010

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Ohh my…Nitrogen!!! This week's soil health Friday will be talking about how these little fertilizer balls of N, impact our soil's ability to manage residues as well as feed the next crop!!

B6BB5B29-9B2F-4F02-B5FE-9E2146C35D0A.jpeg
 
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at1010

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Soil Health Friday – Nitrogen Cycle?

Soil chemistry can be overwhelming and complicated. This does not dilute the importance of our need to understand as much of it as possible if we want to grasp what is happening in our fields.

If you are following the blog posts, you see my weekly attempt to explain, in detail, the soil structure and functionality so that the reader and grower can use this knowledge to increase their efficiencies with their fertility management on their farm.

Often the word chemistry is thought to be synonymous with “man-made” or “synthetic”, however, chemistry is as natural as H20! As an additional example, inorganic forms of nitrogen are naturally occurring. These forms of nitrogen are transformed through biological processes in the soil profile, creating a more plant assimilable form (nitrate, inorganic). I have always found this to be fascinating because this is where chemistry and biology intersect within the medium, that is soil.


nitrogen.jpeg
 
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at1010

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Nitrogen dominates the discussions as it is often considered to be a core driver for plant growth. We must recognize the importance of nitrogen in both the plant assimilable form as well as the organic forms (amino acids/protein/etc. within our organic matter, for example). Also, we should keep in mind the role nitrogen can play in aiding our microbes with a balanced diet, to help further drive carbon breakdown and nutrient cycling.

A very well documented but often overlooked aspect of nitrogen is the nitrogen cycle itself. This has been around a long time and if you Google search it, you will come up with various graphics that help to visualize the cyclical nature of nitrogen.
 
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at1010

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This is important because as you see in the below picture, we are fixing nitrogen through the natural process that legumes offer to our systems. They are taking atmospheric nitrogen (N2) and converting it to ammonia (NH3), what you see on the roots. This is done through a symbiotic relationship between the plant’s root exudates and n-fixing bacteria (rhizobia) The typical nitrogen cycle diagrams show assimilation occurring in the nitrate form.
 

at1010

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We do know that plants can also assimilate ammonium, which is made available from OM mineralization, there has also been ample research showing the plant assimilation of nutrients through microbes themselves (Rhizophagy Cycle, PhD. James White), but for this write up we will focus on nitrate. Worth noting, that in most aerobic soils, nitrogen converts to nitrate rather rapidly and is the most frequently absorbed form. Nitrate is also the most leachable form of nitrogen, more on this to follow.
 

at1010

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So why does all this matter?

This goes back to a blog I wrote a few weeks ago about nutrient cycling. If we can understand the forms in which nitrogen takes and are assimilated, we can better adjust our fertility management and crop rotations. Here at Vitalize Seed, we strive to reduce or eliminate fertilizer needs for our growers. We are doing this by balancing the residue breakdown through carbon: nitrogen ratios, and also by keeping the N (for sake of this blog) in the cycle! This is why we have a highly diverse Spring blend that captures N and fixes N simultaneously (through balancing complementary plant species) and a fall blend that will further mine N in our systems, with a sound balance of N fixing capabilities as well.

As you can see from the last paragraphs the idea is to keep the N in the system and balance the residue breakdown so that when N does come available, we have adequate “miners” to “grab it”, allowing us to make our soils far more self-reliant and the entire system is more efficient. As we increase this efficiency we see higher microbial functionality in our soils, resulting in healthier crops and better nutrient cycling.
 

at1010

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Soil Health Friday – RESULTS ARE IN!!

When we started Vitalize Seed, we set out to test and quantify our system and results. I knew the science behind the system and I have watched the results with my own eyes on my farm for several years. However, we didn’t think that was enough for our customers. We felt it was necessary to further test and quantify our nutrient sequestration ability to further show how/why our systems reduce fertilizer needs, and create healthier soils – leading to healthier animals!

Tissue testing is time-consuming, tedious, and relatively expensive. We believe that tissue testing is critical if you want to show what is going on in the cover crop, from a nutrient-gathering perspective, and show that your plants are doing the things, you are telling customers they should be doing. This is why we continue to spend time and money on this type of testing throughout the growing season.

We set out to the fields with our square and a pair of scissors on July 15. We gathered our samples and sent them into WARD labs for their cover crop analysis, a few days later- the results were even better than anticipated!



Sample 1:

Nitrogen 49.59lbs per acre

Phosphorus: 19.46lbs per acre

Potassium: 80.77ls per acre

Sample 2:

Nitrogen: 45lbs per acre

Phosphorus: 21.28lbs per acre

Potassium: 74.38lbs per acre



These numbers alone are staggering, but what we must keep in mind is that this is ONLY the above-ground biomass from the Sring cover crop. (Nitro boost). This is also a month before termination, which means this will likely be higher in NPK and Micros, at the time of termination. This C: N ratio is relatively low compared to our fall planting (Carbon Load), which means this is going to break down quickly and allow our fall mix to take full advantage of the above nutrients!!

We also must keep in mind the Organic Matter mineralization rule of 10-30lbs of N per 1% OM. If these fields are 3% OM, we conservatively can figure another 30lbs of N, on top of the N in the above-ground biomass (listed above). The good news is it doesn’t stop there.

We can also consider our root biomass. Plants' root mass is often where we can have the largest impact on our soils. Our Spring Nitro boost is loaded with legumes, which will be fixing N all summer long, and that N is tied up in the ammonium form in the roots – not accounted for in this bio-mass sample. The roots will also have additional nutrients that will be released as well, after termination – again feeding the fall crop. The last item I want to mention is thatch – these fields still have some thatch on them that is breaking down from last year's fall (carbon load) planting. This is also not accounted for in our nutrient release but should be mentioned as it will also be feeding this year’s fall planting.

The fields where we have sampled have never had fertilizer put on them. These fields have had lime when needed. They can cycle nutrients and provide ample nutrient availability for the next crop all through nutrient cycling and balanced C: N ratios.

Based on these results, I look forwards to planting my fall crop and continuing to cycle nutrients, feed soil, and feed wildlife without the need for expensive inputs.

Thank you for considering Vitalize Seed. Have a safe and wonderful weekend.

Sincerely-

Albert
Screenshot 2022-07-29 075722.png
 

at1010

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Ty was nice enough to have me on his podcast last week. I had a blast talking about soil and ways we can make plans work for our goals.

Check him out and give his podcast a follow!

 
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giles

Village idiot and local whore
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Al, I think we touched on it very early in this thread. But can you talk to me about worms?

When I first bought my house the yard was sprayed multiple times a year to keep the beautiful grass. It was always green, full and full of worms. We haven't ever sprayed it and 10 years later we don't have hardly any of those huge earth worms we once did. We do have diversity now and the wildlife seems to love the fresh clover.
 

giles

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Part of me says the wildlife is doing its job better because they can see the worms now. And the other part makes me wonder if it isn't more of a soil thing. I don't mind buying worms.

So guess I'm asking if certain bugs can give us hints on what our soil is doing without taking samples.
 
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at1010

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Part of me says the wildlife is doing its job better because they can see the worms now. And the other part makes me wonder if it isn't more of a soil thing. I don't mind buying worms.

So guess I'm asking if certain bugs can give us hints on what our soil is doing without taking samples.

I am not sure buddy. Earthworms are typically indicative of good soils, they are great nutrient cycles, and although they aren't arthropods, they do shred bio-mass and cycle it, making it more easily digestible for other parts of the soil eco-system. Worms help to aggregate the soil as well, which helps from o2 to H20 flow.

As for why they are no longer present, my guess would be that possibly there isn't enough food for them. Possibly when the yard was first put in, there was a lot of carbon another debris for the worms to digest, as well as microbes breaking down that material. After years of it being broken down, and less food available, the population inverted relative to the available microbial diversity and carbon sources. Now this is solely a hypothesis, but for more information check out this link - it is really informative.

 
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giles

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That all makes sense, sorta. The house was built in 06' and I bought it in 13'. There still would've been old forest floor nutrients in the surface dirt. As now I have dips in my yard from old tree stumps that I never knew existed. So they have completely decomposed now. Hmmmmm
 
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at1010

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Soil Health Friday – Benefits of Diversity for Wildlife

This past Spring, we had several customers plant our Vitalize Seed Nitro Boost in areas where they had previously never been successful, due to over-browse. They had previously planted bean monocultures and they just couldn’t keep the deer from eating the beans to the dirt – despite their best efforts in harvesting does during hunting season.


When they planted the Nitro Boost, they were nervous this would be an issue again for them. However, they were extremely excited to see that they were able to grow “the best plots they’ve ever grown!”.


Now, I’d like to sit here and tell you we have created some superb genetically modified seed that allows deer to not over browse it, lol! However, the key here is the balanced diversity in the mix.

We focus a lot on soil health, and diversity is king! The variability in root exudation alone is of massive benefit to the soil microbiome and the solubilizing of nutrients for our crops to assimilate. Often, what we don’t speak about is how this diversity benefits wildlife.

Three reasons for diversity?

We are offering various crops that are maturing at different rates. This allows the field to be attractive at varying times throughout the season. This helps us to continue our photosynthetic capture for long periods vs. a plot that is eaten to the ground and then baren for the remainder of the year.

The fields are offering browsable plants at varying heights – the deer cannot just walk down a row and nip each top off. This increases the browse tolerance of the fields. We also capture the maximum amount of sunlight vs. allowing the sun to hit the soil directly - even in a closed canopy bean field, some light will get between beans, this is why weeds can still get through the canopy (at times), and this light is a missed opportunity to capture that energy with a crop we want for wildlife! Our diverse mix ensures each layer of above-ground biomass is covered, this results in tonnage and is an amazing vehicle for solar energy capture (photosynthesis)!

We are creating mini eco-systems. I have documented this well in my garden but it also applies to food plots. When you have varying levels of plants, species, pollinator-attracting species, etc. You create an environment outside of a mono-culture field. I often find frogs, snakes, and various positively predatory insects doing my pesticide control! As an example, in my garden, I watched dying sunflowers in September (right before Roma tomato harvest) attract aphids, only to have carpenter ants eat the aphids! Upon checking my tomato and pepper crop, I did not have a single aphid on a single crop plant! This is a small example of the natural symbiosis diversity in fields creates. This same example can be applied to food plots, not to mention feeding the microbes as some plants die off and feed microbes, further driving the nutrient cycling.


All in all, if you are not using diverse mixes - I hope this helps you to consider just a few of the benefits they offer.


Sincerely thank you for considering Vitalize Seed as your source!


Albert
 
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at1010

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Soil Health Friday – Defining Soils?

In the past, I would often refer to soil as “poor” or “great”. However, as I have been reflecting on this more, I am not sure if that is fair to put that label on the medium in which we work to grow our crops, specifically with such a broad stroke with undefined parameters. My current feeling is it is far too qualitative of measurement and not nearly quantitated enough to allow us to determine our actual potential.

If our goal is to reduce inputs, as much as possible, without reducing output or yields, then we must prioritize our soils as a biological system, first and foremost. This is often a counter-intuitive approach, as we have been trained to focus on soil type (sandy, load, etc.) organic matter percentages, Ph, and possibly some techniques or fertilizer recommendations that “work for this type of soil”.

However, neither organic matter nor soil type are solely indicative of our soil's potential and surely are not uniquely correlated to our ability to cycle nutrients and/or increase our biological communication and activity in our soils.
When we continue to allow ourselves to use the term poor soil, we continue to alienate darn near everyone. Even if this a utopian soil type was common, it can also become easily degraded if the soil health principles are now followed.

This in and of itself is why the 6th soil health principles were created and are so valuable.
· Know Your Context.
· Cover the Soil.
· Minimize Soil Disturbance.
· Increase Diversity.
· Maintain Continuous Living Plants/Roots.
· Integrate Livestock.

By following these principles, we are not worrying about if our soil is poor or not, we are focusing on the efficiency and functionality of our soils. As I have stated in other blogs, we must be extremely cognizant of nutrient cycling if we want to truly reduce our input costs, and maximize biological efficiency. That is why at Vitalize Seed, I often say “we are not a seed company, we are a nutrient cycling company”, we put our effort into a Spring mix that preps ground for Fall and a Fall mix that preps ground for Spring, further driving symbiotic relationships with the microbiome’s communications.
To dive into this further, if you have low CEC soils and struggle to grow brassica, grains, and other higher N scavenging crops – it is not a surprise, you simply don’t have enough N in the system. This will be heavily apparent in year one. This is why when focusing on Spring plantings that feed the soil for a Fall planting, you can achieve far better results over time. This is the entire premise behind our 1-2 system. If you are using cover crops for your Farm to prep for a Spring planting, this is where understanding C: N cycles and nutrient cycling can help you to reduce input needs – what is available now, and what will be soon, what is needed to speed up residue breakdown, etc. – these are the questions we can help you answer.

Similarly, to the importance of biology, we also want to focus on soil structure. Those with very high CEC soils will often say “I have poor soil, that is why I must turn it” and those with low CEC soils say “I have poor soils, they are just too light to hold nutrients”.

Both of these are 100% a challenge, and biology will help (creation of glomalin from fungal network establishment, for example) but so will balancing our base saturations of CA, MG, and K.
In lighter soil we want a higher MG level to help hold the soil structure tighter. In heavier soils, we almost always see inadequate CA, and we need to add this to help our soil's porosity.

All in all, “great” soils can function poorly and “poor” soils can function greatly. We need to stick to a plan for a few years, implement the 6 soil health principles to the best of our ability, manage deer browse (in food plot situations), and focus on PH/base saturations. If you do this, and use good quality seed blends to feed each other, and the soil's microbiome, you will without a doubt find success be it a farm field to a food plot.

PS – For context, the world record bu/acre of corn is grown outside of the Midwest and is grown on sub-7 CEC soils. I suspect that gentleman doesn’t define his soil as poor.

Thank you for considering Vitalize Seed as your seed source.
 

at1010

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For anyone who is interested, I have added all of our blogs to the website, so you can go back and find them easily.

 

at1010

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Soil Health Friday – WHY DOES IT MATTER?

When speaking about soils and sharing how they function, it is always amazing how the conversation will take one of two directions.

The first is full of optimism and excitement, wanting to learn more and more about nutrient cycling and soil development.

The second is typically more pessimistic, often followed by an attempt to dilute the importance and significance of understanding the science behind soil health.

Obviously, with the first bullet, I couldn’t enjoy those dialogs more. I have had many wonderful discussions with customers and non about how they can make a change on their property. Not only to offer higher quality food but also to reduce their input costs through sound soil management practices.

The latter in the list is more concerning. Not because it’s taking a shot at me or Vitalize Seed (that’s unavoidable) but more so the fact that we as hunters and outdoorsmen will dilute the importance of learning!

My opinion is that soil health is extremely important. Just as I think timber stand improvement is critical, whitetail anatomy, etc. I believe we as hunters and conservationists must continue to educate ourselves in all aspects of property management, and yes – some of this information will be different than what we once thought to be true. Now, I realize we can’t devote the same level of energy to every topic, but let’s use each other as a resource to continue to learn.

I am a firm believer in leaving my farm far better than I found it. From timber to earthworms, I want the soil and animals symbiotically working together.

When I am gone, no one will care about my rifles or bow except maybe my family and even that is for a finite period.

However, that soil and timber will live on. It will live on for generations. Someday many moons from now, someone will sink a shovel into that soil and wonder “what was here before for it to be so rich in color” only to then walk over and take a break under a majestic white oak in well-managed and harvested Appalachian Forest.

So, to me when people say - why does it matter? It matters because conservation matters. Learning matters. Leaving it better than we found it matters. Reducing our inputs and growing better quality food matters!

Whether you use Vitalize Seed or another company. I hope you consider why managing soil health matters on your farm.

Thank you for considering us as your seed source.

Sincerely -

Albert
 

at1010

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This planting method (drill and drive away) has been a great test this year. We have amazing Carbon Load fall crops coming up and we are still taking advantage of the N-fixing of Nitro Boost. The deer have tons of food here and cover!!

802A4C68-EAEF-4AD7-8C0C-D2C2640385E1.jpeg
 

at1010

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I know my soil health Friday posts get very long, and sometimes lose folks. Jared was nice enough to have me on to go over some of the tissue testing and what it means from a fertility management perspective. I hope you enjoy it!

 
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