How to ... test soil in wildlife food plots

  • Article by: BILL MARCHEL SPECIAL TO THE STAR TRIBUNE
  • Updated: May 1, 2014 - 3:02 PM

Soil samples should be gathered from numerous locations in a single plot. Complete instructions come with each testing kit.

Photo: Bill Marchel Special to the Star Tribune,

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

 

For almost two decades I’ve been planting food plots on land I own near Brainerd. This has always been my attempt to attract deer and other wildlife to the property. My efforts have been successful and very gratifying.

During these years I’ve written about my wildlife farming practices and fielded many questions from those with similar interests. I must confess, I’ve been a hypocrite at times when answering these queries.

“Before you do any planting, be sure to get your soil tested,” I tell prospective food plotters.

Two years ago, my food plots failed to yield their usual lush plants. I wondered why. Then I realized it had been four years since I last tested the soil in my various food plots. “Do as I say, not as I do,” I thought to myself as I recalled the soil test advice I had given others.

I kicked off the growing season by ordering six soil test kits from the Whitetail Institute of North America. The kits cost only $14 apiece, with each kit containing a soil container, a submission form and a preaddressed return envelope. I followed the simple instructions included with the kits and sent them off.

A few days later the results arrived via e-mail.

The results were a rude awakening for me.

I had been assuming my poor crop production was attributable to acidic soil. In other words, I thought I would need to add lime to raise the pH of the soil. But the soil tests showed that only two of the six plots had a low pH. Had I randomly applied lime to all plots, as initially planned, I would have wasted time and money and risked leaving the soil too alkaline in a couple plots.

Test results for one of the two acidic plots showed a pH of 6.0. Optimum pH for growing most plants is 6.5. According to the test results, I would need to apply 3,200 pounds of lime per acre to raise the pH from 6.0 to 6.5. Since the plot is a half-acre in size, I simply cut the suggested amount in half and applied 1,600 pounds of lime. That sounds like a lot of lime, and it is, but proper pH is very important for optimal plant growth. And once the proper pH is obtained, reliming usually isn’t necessary for several years.

The soil test showed the same plot was also deficient in potassium (K) and nitrogen (N). The other important element to plant growth, phosphorus (P), was adequate. I had noted on the soil test kit that I planned to plant Whitetail Forage Oats Plus in the plot. The test results indicated I needed to apply 90 pounds of 34-0-0 fertilizer to satisfy the nitrogen (N) needs and 40 pounds of 0-0-60 fertilizer to raise the potassium (K) to an optimum level. I applied lime, nitrogen and potassium as directed, and the plot grew a lush crop of oats that fall.

Without the soil test I likely would have applied more fertilizer than necessary and not enough lime. I would have spent the same amount of money but with poorer results.

Soil test kits can be purchased at www.whitetail institute.com. The website also features two brief videos describing why and how to test your soil.

Bill Marchel, an outdoors writer and photographer, lives near Brainerd.

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

Click here to send us your hunting or fishing photos – and to see what others are showing off from around the region.

ADVERTISEMENT

Oakland - LP: D. Otero 8 FINAL
Kansas City - WP: J. Frasor 9
Minnesota 10/2/14 7:25 PM
Green Bay
Buffalo 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Detroit
Chicago 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Carolina
Cleveland 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Tennessee
St. Louis 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Philadelphia
Atlanta 10/5/14 12:00 PM
NY Giants
Tampa Bay 10/5/14 12:00 PM
New Orleans
Houston 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Dallas
Baltimore 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Indianapolis
Pittsburgh 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Jacksonville
Arizona 10/5/14 3:05 PM
Denver
Kansas City 10/5/14 3:25 PM
San Francisco
NY Jets 10/5/14 3:25 PM
San Diego
Cincinnati 10/5/14 7:30 PM
New England
Seattle 10/6/14 7:30 PM
Washington
NY Islanders 5 FINAL
Boston 3
NY Rangers 2 FINAL
Philadelphia 4
Ottawa 1 FINAL
Winnipeg 2
Carolina 1 FINAL
St. Louis 3
Tampa Bay 5 FINAL
Dallas 1
Colorado 0 FINAL
Calgary 2
Los Angeles 4 FINAL
San Jose 1
Fla Atlantic 10/2/14 6:00 PM
FIU
UCF 10/2/14 6:00 PM
Houston
Arizona 10/2/14 9:30 PM
(2) Oregon
Louisville 10/3/14 6:00 PM
Syracuse
San Diego St 10/3/14 9:00 PM
Fresno State
Utah State 10/3/14 9:15 PM
(18) BYU
(6) Texas A&M 10/4/14 11:00 AM
(12) Miss State
Ball State 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Army
Iowa State 10/4/14 11:00 AM
(21) Oklahoma State
Marshall 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Old Dominion
Southern Miss 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Middle Tennessee
(20) Ohio State 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Maryland
Purdue 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Illinois
Florida 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Tennessee
SMU 10/4/14 11:00 AM
(22) East Carolina
Virginia Tech 10/4/14 11:30 AM
North Carolina
Eastern Mich 10/4/14 1:00 PM
Akron
North Texas 10/4/14 1:30 PM
Indiana
Massachusetts 10/4/14 1:30 PM
Miami-Ohio
Tulsa 10/4/14 2:00 PM
Colorado State
New Mexico 10/4/14 2:30 PM
TX-San Antonio
(3) Alabama 10/4/14 2:30 PM
(11) Ole Miss
(14) Stanford 10/4/14 2:30 PM
(9) Notre Dame
(17) Wisconsin 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Northwestern
Navy 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Air Force
(7) Baylor 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Texas
(4) Oklahoma 10/4/14 2:30 PM
(25) TCU
Wake Forest 10/4/14 2:30 PM
(1) Florida State
NC State 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Clemson
Buffalo 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Bowling Green
Ohio U 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Central Mich
Oregon State 10/4/14 3:00 PM
Colorado
Vanderbilt 10/4/14 3:00 PM
(13) Georgia
Kansas 10/4/14 3:00 PM
West Virginia
Kent State 10/4/14 4:00 PM
Northern Ill
South Alabama 10/4/14 5:00 PM
Appalachian St
Texas-El Paso 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Louisiana Tech
(15) LSU 10/4/14 6:00 PM
(5) Auburn
UAB 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Western Ky
Texas Tech 10/4/14 6:00 PM
(23) Kansas State
Michigan 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Rutgers
Hawaii 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Rice
Toledo 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Western Mich
ULM 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Arkansas State
Georgia State 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Louisiana
Idaho 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Texas State
Memphis 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Cincinnati
Arizona State 10/4/14 6:30 PM
(16) USC
So Carolina 10/4/14 6:30 PM
Kentucky
Pittsburgh 10/4/14 6:30 PM
Virginia
Miami-Florida 10/4/14 6:30 PM
Georgia Tech
(19) Nebraska 10/4/14 7:00 PM
(10) Michigan State
UNLV 10/4/14 7:00 PM
San Jose St
Ga Southern 10/4/14 7:00 PM
New Mexico St
California 10/4/14 9:30 PM
Washington St
Utah 10/4/14 9:30 PM
(8) UCLA
Boise State 10/4/14 9:30 PM
Nevada
Winnipeg 10/3/14 6:00 PM
Ottawa
Calgary 10/3/14 9:00 PM
Saskatchewan
Edmonton 10/4/14 3:00 PM
Toronto
Brt Columbia 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Hamilton
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Should the lake where the albino muskie was caught remain a mystery?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close