One of my research properties is on sand ground in South Central Wisc. The past three years we have been moving away from herbicides. We also have been doing regenerative food plotting research. The end goal has been to put inches on the bucks and increase overall herd health for the does and the fawns. Every year there are new challenges. Many food plotters on sand ground experience the challenges of low cec and soil organic matter levels. All so often people think that just because their soil pH is adequate, their plots should be fine.
I remind people at times that soil pH is only the third most important element of a successful food plot, especially those on lighter soils. You can’t change dramatically your soil cec levels, but you can change your soil microbial health. That soil life is essential to uptake of nutrients. In simple terms, grow worms and stop killing your soils. How does one kill your soils, you might be thinking? So many people want your food plots to look like gardens. Work the soil less and shallower. Stop using glyphosate as it is anti-microbial. Practice maintaining “living roots” and practice regenerative food plotting.
I plant perhaps 70-80 different forages on the sand ground property each year. Some of these forages are new to the food plot world. Some forages are one’s that are my staple but many never consider. The focus is providing as dense of “sward” as possible. The key to integrated weed management and regenerative food plotting is planting the right place, right time, right way and with the right forages for your own unique situation. The base of my trophy management program is alfalfa and medium red clover. This helps better handle mother nature and provide 365-day nutrition. I use 3 varieties of forbs in strategic locations. I plant warm season cocktail blends in June. I plant cool season cocktail blends the end of July and early August. I am always spinning seed into any thin or thinning areas.
So many people are now selling regenerative blends, but my strategy is very different as I come from the managed intensive grazing background where every square foot of forage matter. Yield and nutrition is always first. How do we get the extra yield and nutrition? We are 100% liquid program and have been the past 3 years. We have used compost teas. We have used high levels of liquid humic acids to detoxify bad radicals in the soil and aid in nutrient holding capacity. We clip on a timely manner. We plant species that have worming type properties. We plant nutrient dense forages and new improved genetics.
Cookie cutter answers are not solutions. I work with a lot of clients on sand ground and most have different solutions. There is the now, and there is the future. There is the current soil health and life and considerations on how to get to the next level. It is pretty simple in theory. Plan a three-year strategy for success. When your sand or light soils turn “black”, you’re almost there. When you start seeing worms in every shovel of soil, then you’re pretty much there. When you start stockpiling forages instead of running out of forages late season, then you’re on the path.
My challenge for you all is to write down 3 things that you would like to change in your lands. Next, ask yourself what your limiting factor has been to get the results you need. Lastly, ask yourself are you willing to get educated enough to do better before you do more?