I remember learning about Liebig’s Law of the Minimum in college.  It’s simply a principle developed in the early 1800’s that states “growth is controlled not by the total of resources available, but by the scarcest resource (limiting factor).”

As an illustration, a plant could be attempting to grow in an area that had ample nitrogen (N), phosphorous (P), and potassium (K).  However, if there is very little iron available, the plant will not be very productive.  Iron is required to form chlorophyll (for photosynthesis).  Therefore, even though the plant has access to all the N, P, and K (macro nutrients or nutrients that are required by plants in a high volume), its growth will be severely limited because trace amounts of iron are not available.

Many food plot farmers only test the soil in their plots to determine how much N, P, and K are available.  For a few more dollars good labs, like Waters Ag, will test for the macro nutrients (N, P, and K) and the most critical micronutrients.  Even fewer food plot farmers use a fertilizer that includes the most critical micro nutrients.  That is one reason (among many) that I use Antler Dirt.

Remember that plants are only nutrient transfer agents.  If the nutrients aren’t available to the plant, they can’t be transferred to the deer.  The productivity of deer (antlers and fawns, among other measures) can be limited due to the lack of micronutrients.  I refer to Liebig’s Law of the Minimum as the “low hole in the bucket.”  As a deer manager, I can plug several holes, but if I don’t plug the lowest hole, the deer herd can’t express its full potential.  The best deer managers constantly strive to plug the lowest hole.

Growing Deer together,


– Dr. Grant Woods of Woods & Associates is a wildlife biologist and consultant specializing in deer management and research. He received B.S. and M.S. degrees from Southwest Missouri State University and a Ph.D. from Clemson University. He has conducted research or management projects in more than 25 states, Canada and New Zealand. He has been instrumental in the development of many modern deer management practices and a pioneer in the Quality Deer Management movement.

Grant recently launched a great deer management web site, Growingdeer.tv, which I highlighted several weeks ago on Wired To Hunt. Make sure to go check out Growing Deer TV to see weekly videos from Grant discussing deer and land management strategies. Visit Growing Deer TV here.