Connecting the Dots
The average food plotter understands the importance of having their soil in the proper pH range, but they don’t understand why. Even if one has a lower pH, that will not have a dramatic effect on seed germination and early growth. Where low pH really comes into play is around 3-5 weeks post planting. That seed will get out of the ground and start rooting down, but it will not be able to effectively utilize the nutrients in the soil. What you typically see is stunted growth. Yes, you will get growth, but you might only see one ton of forage dry matter per acre on a blend that typically produces over two ton.
Another area of concern would be plant nutrients. If your forages are not able to uptake N-P-K, they will be lower in protein, phosphorous and protein. They also typically will be lower in sugars which are very important in attraction of that blend. You also tend to see an increase in plant diseases and insect pressures. Insects tend to migrate to unhealthy plants over those healthy and with higher brix readings. Deer are selective browsers that consume what they do for a reason. They seek out healthy forages that are of quality.
What can you do when your soils are not in the 6.0-7.0 pH range? Don’t wait to take soil Samples now for the future. You can sample anytime. If your soils are low in pH, you will need to lime. It takes 6 months or more to get desired benefits from ag limes and a couple of months on pelletized limes. Many farmers lime in the fall or winter and more food plotters should be doing the same. I regularly lime my plots during some of the coldest days of the year in January. Get that lime down and let Mother Nature do its job.
One way you can deal with pH challenges when a plant cannot connect the nutrients from roots to forages is use of foliar plant foods. Foliar plant foods can absorb the nutrients through the leaves within four hours of application. You typically will see a response within a few days. My word of caution is to read tags. You also want to use products that have time release trace minerals in them. You also will want to familiarize the differences between polyphosphate and orthophosphate. Quality sources do matter.
Healthy soil leads to healthy forages. Healthy forages tend to be more attractive to deer. There is a strong correlation between increased sugar levels, increased protein levels and reduced fiber levels on forage attraction. In my next blog I’ll take things a step further and get beyond pH and discuss cation exchange (cec) and what it means to your forages.