When determining which food plot fertilizer to use, the first consideration should be to get the pH levels correct.
The importance of soil pH was discussed in the section on soil analysis.
Soils that are too acidic can have lime added to raise the pH level, which will neutralize toxic substances and allow the plants to effectively utilize the nutrients present in the soil.
If you apply fertilizer without correcting the pH, a lot of the nutrients in the fertilizer will be unavailable to the plants, and so wasted.
As plants grow and are eaten by animals, the soil is depleted of nutrients and therefore the soil pH changes. So adding lime to the soil is not a one-time activity.
Different plants require different pH levels, so if you change the type of grass or crop [i.e. change from corn to clover which requires a higher pH] a new soil test will be needed to show the pH and different lime application.
It usually takes a significant amount of lime to change the pH of the soil, so the application rate is usually described in tons-per-acre.
Some soils require less lime to change the pH but require liming more often because it leaches out quickly, so testing the pH regularly is important.
Lime can be purchased in:
- Finely ground powder
- Pulverized limestone rock
If you have a small food plot, you would probably use powdered or granular form and purchase it in 50-pound bags.
A common method of applying the lime is to use a spreader that is also used for broadcasting seed and fertilizer. The spreader can be towed behind an atv, tractor or 4WD vehicle.
If your food plot is not small, it is cheaper to buy lime in bulk and use an agricultural contractor to apply it.
Lime works the quickest if rain soon follows application. If there is no rain soon after application, lightly disking the soil will assist when the rain does fall.
Food Plot Fertilizer
Plants remove the nutrients in the soil, and then animals remove part of the plants. The result is that nutrients are constantly being lost from the soil.
The soil nutrients must be replaced!
The main nutrients include:
It is commonly known as NPK [K is the chemical symbol for potassium].
It has been calculated that one acre of alfalfa in one year will remove the following from the soil:
- 450 pounds of nitrogen
- 120 pounds of phosphorus
- 480 pounds of potassium
Clearly, if you don’t replace the nutrients, it wont take long before the soil will only grow weeds.
When food plot fertilizer is purchased, it is usually a blend of NPK in certain ratios, that can be decided after examining the soil analysis. Sometimes other nutrients such as calcium, sulphur and magnesium are added.
If the NPK ratio is 12-6-12, the first number represents the amount of nitrogen, the second number phosphorus, and the third number potassium.
Your farm supply outlet can make up the blend to suit the soil analysis report.