Are you planning on planting a food plot this year? Yes? Boom. There is reason number one why you need to get a soil test this year. That being said, I’m feeling rather talkative tonight, so I’ll still offer four more reasons why this is so important! But before I justify my mandatory placement of soil tests on your to-do list, lets first clarify what a soil test actually accomplishes. In short, a soil test measures the components of your soil and how “good” it is for certain plants. The main metric in these tests is PH level, which in very simple terms is a measure of how easily plants can absorb nutrition from the soil. So to recap, PH level tells you how much nutrition a plant can get from the soil, and soil tests tell you what the PH level is. Therefore, with a little bit of logic, you can see that a soil test will you help you determine how much nutrition plants (aka your food plot) can absorb from the soil. So in a nutshell, that’s what we’re doing here. But I digress, lets get back to the main event. Here are four reasons why a soil test is a MUST for any of you planting food plants this year.
1. A Soil Test Helps You Select The Proper Forage for Your Plot: As mentioned above soil tests measure the PH level, which is a major factor when it comes to choosing a food plot forage. Certain types of plants need certain PH levels to thrive. That being said, after a soil test you will either be able to say “I have a 5.5 PH level, therefore I can plant A, B, or C, which thrive in 5.5 PH level soil” OR you can say “I want to plant D, E and F. So given my PH level of 5.5, I need to increase my PH level to the best range for D,E and F”. Once you’ve taken a look at your soil test, you’ll be able to get a realistic picture of the situation. If you have PH levels in the 4’s, you’ll have to consider a unique set of forage types, compared to what you could plant if your soil comes back in the 6-7 range (neutral). If you need to know the recommended PH level for a certain forage, Google it (ie. clover food plots PH) and there are numerous resources available.
2. A Soil Test Helps You Apply The Proper Amount of Lime: Mentioned in the first point, was the fact that you may need to increase the PH level of your soil in order to plant a given forage. Luckily, your trusty soil test can help with this. If you know you want to plant clover and you know it thrives in PH levels around 6.5, your soil test will tell you the amount of lime necessary to increase your PH to that level. If get lazy and don’t get a soil test, you’ll be applying lime blind or even worse, not applying lime at all. Both situations are dire and will most often be the first step to failure. Don’t skimp on the lime, but at the same time don’t buy and apply more than you need! Get that soil test and apply only the necessary amount. This will ensure a full pocketbook and a lush food plot.
3. Soil Tests Provide A Fertilizer Cheat Sheet: Fertilizing is another area that can be make or break for your food plots, so don’t take this lightly. Applying a generic fertilizer on your food plot is not the recipe for success. Every type of plant needs different nutrients to thrive and everyone’s soil has a slightly different compositition, so the neccessary fertilizer will almost always be unique to your situation! Does this mean it has to be complicated? No! Just get your soil test, indicate what you want to plant and your test will come back explaining exactly what kind of fertilizer you need and how much. Easy as pie, piece of cake.
4. Not Using A Soil Test Can Break the Bank: You bought hundreds of dollars worth of seed, fertilizer and lime. You’ve upgraded your tractor and bought a new disc, cultipacker and seeder. And most importantly, you’ve bragged to all of your buddies about the Booner you’ll be shooting off of your brand new 50 acre clover food plot…..Fast forward a couple months. Your plot looks like the surface of mars, the only animals visiting it are roaches and the occasional lost rabit. You’ve spent a load of money and your pride is hanging by a thread as your friends rub your face in your “Booner” brags from months earlier. What went wrong? You got cheap and lazy and didn’t pay the $10-$15 to get a soil test. Don’t skimp on the soil test, it can be the difference between food plot glory and piles of wasted time and dollars.
Soil tests set the table for dinner and without them you can count on plenty of unhappy guests, empty stomachs and plenty of “if onlys” running through your head. So don’t be that guy. Get a soil test, know what you’re working with, choose the proper forage based on the recommendations and supplement your plots appropriately with the neccesary lime and fertilizer. Do this and I’ll let you move on to the next item on your bucket list. Maybe something less important, like that trip to Tahiti, having children or learning to drink milk through your nose.
Looking to get a soil test? Check with your local agriculture extension office to get a test ran, or submit a sample to one of several food plot specific labs like that of Mossy Oak’s Biologic or the Whitetail Institute. I got my test done last spring through WI and was really happy with the results. One major perk of their test was that they can email you the results! To get the soil test package from Whitetail Institute that I used, click here.