In my career I have always been involved in research and development. I am always looking for something to compliment my current programs. About 5 years ago I came across one appealing forage in that it would compliment my wildlife program, cover crop program and managed intensive grazing program. I decided to put it to the ultimate test, the GRO Farm.
On the GRO farm there is extreme browse/grazing pressure. There is clay ground, peat ground, and loam ground. I decided to plant balansa fixation clover in a semi shady area closer to a woods edge. This would jack up the browse intensity even more. After letting visual observations tell me a lot, I decided to test this new forage even more. Putting the deck at 3”, I started mowing away. Yep, this is shorter than recommended but we needed to put it to the test for extreme browse pressure. What I observed was a faster than normal regrowth capacity and regular browse pressure through hunting season. That damn forage was like a Timex watch, it took a licking and kept on ticking.
But is that all? When evaluating any new forage for wildlife. Growth matters to me. No matter if you have limited acres or an abundance of acreage, when one had high growth potential it allows many other things to come into play. You can take that extra capacity and put it into 365 day bedding. Every year I keep benchmarking, comparing it from one year to another. Then there is the nutrition element. Besides the many benefits of added protein, energy and minerals, there are strong correlations between quality forages and attraction to wildlife. The same concepts that enhance growth also enhance brix (sugars).
All was well in the world from what my eyes and science told me. Wait a minute, there is something more that people overlook when they search for that new silver bullet, reliability. The only way to truly know how a forage can be is how consistent it is in a wide range of weather and soil conditions. This is where I always try to test forages 3 years before adding them to any of my programs. In the wildlife side of things this is where one day I came up with team gro. In a wildlife industry of pro staff and field staff, I saw how everyone just wanted a handout or a “free lunch.” This didn’t give me meaningful data or feedback. What I decided to do is have people put some money into the pot. One of the benefits of that pot was to purchase many different unique forages to test. In turn I allowed all team members to help test new forages 1-3 years before I choose to release them to the general public or at times openly discuss them in front of the general public. What better way than to see how any forage does than to get it in Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Florida, Kansas, Michigan, Wisconsin and across the US? The climates vary, the soils vary, and the deer vary. Instead of 4 or 5 research plots run by myself, I currently have over 550 people who can help me conduct research. This brings even more science to the table. Repetitions at it's finest.
So as I type this, I am finalizing my 2020 research. I will be allowing the general public to help test some forages that I saw incredible year 1 results with. Some of these forages I’d venture to say many wildlife companies are not aware of or have ever tested. Will some of these forages ever see theirselves into any of my lineups? What I learned a number of years ago is that you can have an incredible forage that you have researched but the availability long term of that forage might become a big challenge.
In the end, there are pros and cons with anything one plants. I evaluate and look at every forage for it’s NOW value as well as it’s FUTURE value to your soil and property. Things can be as simple or as complicated as we want to make them. It’s my job to help connect the dots or to explain beyond the bag.