I grew up with soil. I learned how to judge soil. My life involves soil. My first book was titled From Soil to Success. This might have surprised some who know me. They might have predicted From Forages to Success, but I realized early on in my career that a good agronomist made my job much easier. So, as I type this blog, I want to make you stop and think a bit.
Any property I set foot on will have erosion issues. Many realize that steep slopes can be a problem, but water can erode land even with slopes over 1%. Sure, it won’t be as significant and obvious as slopes over 10% but water will flow across it. Even on level ground there might be erosion in the form of wind or mechanical means. How do we reduce erosion on even these more level grounds? You want to keep more soil surface residue.
When people plant food plots they are planting cover crops. The problem with many food plotters is the focus on the fall season. Many just want to have something growing them to attract deer into an area. While this does serve a purpose for the now, it has long term ramifications. Mother nature can be merciless. We cannot prevent her wrath, but we can better handle what she throws before us. How can we accomplish this? By planting more perennials, by planting more forages that are dual purpose in feeding our animals yet also feeding the soil. How many of you know that you can promote future growth of forages on your lands but planting certain cocktails of forages during the current year?
How can you evaluate how healthy your soil is? It can be as simple as digging some holes across the land and filling them with water. Monitor how fast water drains away. If water stays in the hole for many hours or even stays there for days, you have a problem. Dig some holes and see how many worms are evident. If you’re not seeing many worms, what does that tell you?
Take soil samples. Many realize the importance of taking them but over 90% of food plotters do not use the results to maintain soil health and nutrient balance. There is very little education and understanding of the macro and micronutrient demands by the crops that the common food plotter plant. The fertilizer practices many use themselves can be harmful to the soil environment when used randomly and recklessly.
So, what can people do to improve the health of your soils?
Keep soil covered as many months a year as possible and keeping living roots
Plant more synergistic forages that produce beneficial bacteria
Plant forages that produce more surface residue and promote SOP.
Use quality humics and fulvic products at the right amount.
Plant wind breaks and contour strips
Consider more liquid starters and foliar feedings
Reduce compaction by using lighter equipment or driving over our land less
Consider no till, minimum till or reduced tillage practices
Interseeding/overseeding of forages into existing stands of corn/soybeans and warm season annuals.