Agronomic Services — News ReleaseFOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
FRIDAY, OCT. 3, 2003
CONTACT: J. Kent Messick
Field Services Section Chief, Agronomic Division
Soil testing helps wildlife food plots flourishMOUNT GILEAD—Bill Kirk lives on more than 60 acres in Montgomery County that back up to the Uwharrie National Forest. Six years ago, he began clearing land for wildlife food plots—for deer, quail, and turkey. The endeavor has been a gradual learning process, and Kirk attributes much of his success to soil testing.
When Kirk began his wildlife project, he was determined to do it right. He was a retired meat cutter, not a farmer. He read, consulted with experts, and asked lots of questions.
Kirk relied heavily on advice from the U.S. Department of .Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and the Whitetail Institute. When he asked NRCS about the best way to fertilize the food plots, they told him to take soil samples and then contact his local regional agronomist, David Dycus, with the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
Kirk had been using 10-10-10 for several years—a standard, and often recommended, fertilizer. Dycus talked with Kirk, looked at the soil test results, and immediately suggested a drastic change.
"Mr. Kirk was growing combinations of clovers, alfalfa and lespedeza sold by the Whitetail Institute," Dycus said. "These crops didn't need any nitrogen, but the soil test report clearly indicated that phosphorus and potassium were very low. I advised that he switch immediately to a combination of 0-46-0 and 0-0-60."
Dycus worked closely with Kirk to measure each different plot, take more soil samples, and calculate exact fertilizer recommendations based on the soil test results.
"The difference produced by using the right fertilizer was like night and day," Kirk said. "Using 10-10-10 was a waste of my money. After I did what David told me to do, everything sprung right up. Wow!"
The results have been impressive. Some are obvious—like the lushness of the clover and the increased evidence of foraging. Others are less obvious, but perhaps more critical—like hardiness and persistence.
"These food plots have gone through the drought a couple of years, then the rain, then the armyworms, and they're still doing great," Kirk said.
"It was critical that the fertilization be just right," Dycus said, "otherwise the plots could not have survived so many stresses."
Using the appropriate fertilizer makes crops stronger and gives them an edge. Healthy plants with adequate nutrition develop better root systems that allow them to overcome harsh conditions much more easily.
Over the past several years, Kirk has seen a noticeable increase in the quail and turkey populations. The deer are more plentiful too, but now they have their own preferred foods and stay out of Kirk's vegetables and flower garden.
"Lots of people have taken notes as I've been working on these plots," Kirk said. "They all want to get on the wagon. I just say that without help from experts like David, I'd have been nowhere."
In response to increasing demand for information on fertilizing wildlife food plots, NCDA&CS has revised its Soil Sample information form to include four new crop codes: 066 for Deer/Turkey; 067 for Upland Game; 068 for Waterfowl; and 069 for Fish Ponds. People who specify these codes when submitting soil samples will receive a soil test report with fertilizer recommendations customized for their specific type of wildlife area.
The NCDA&CS Agronomic Division’s Field Services section offers advice and assistance in all aspects of crop nutrient management and agronomic testing, including soil testing, nematode assay, and plant, waste or solution analysis. Growers in Anson, Guilford, Hoke, Lee, Montgomery, Moore, Randolph, Richmond or Scotland counties can contact David Dycus at (919) 776-9338 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Growers in other N.C. counties who would like advice on crop nutrition can visit the Web site www.ncagr.com/agronomi or contact Kent Messick at (919) 733-2655 for the name of their local regional agronomist.