Fertilizing Your Whitetail Food Plot

Fertilizing Your Food Plot

Once you’ve had your soil tested, identified your soil’s pH, and corrected any issues, the next concern is how much fertilizer will you need? Nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K) are the main concerns. Typically, one of the most obvious signs of a lack of nitrogen is stunted forage growth and yellow leaves or stems. Why? Because nitrogen makes forage grow green and grow fast, especially if you are planting and growing grasses. However, if you are planting clover, the nitrogen won’t clearly help the plant since clover fixes nitrogen, but planting clover with grassy plants does work in a mutually positive way.

On each bag of fertilizer there will be three numbers corresponding to the ratio or nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium per 100 pounds. For example, a fertilizer marked as 5-10-15 has five pounds of nitrogen, 10 pounds of phosphorus, and 15 pounds of potassium for every 100 pounds of fertilizer. If your soil test results show that nitrogen is the biggest deficiency of the soil, ammonium nitrate may be your best option. Ammonium nitrate is listed as 34-0-0, so 34 pounds of nitrogen per 100 and zero phosphorus or potassium.

Soil reports also list secondary nutrients such as calcium, magnesium, and sulfur as well as the micronutrients zinc and manganese, but one optimum pH is achieved, the secondary and micronutrients will often be corrected. Ideally, you want to get the pH level around 6.5 for optimum growth. Buying lime in bulk is a very considerable savings over the 40-pound bags of pelletized lime. In some areas, you can buy and have bulk lime spread over the land for around $50 a ton. Pelletized lime is about $3 per 40-pounds, so it would take 50 bags to equal one ton. That’s $50 for a bulk ton versus $150 a pelletized ton. It adds up!

In short, once you have your soil analyzed, do what is necessary to correct for your soil’s deficiencies, but shop around and head to the feed store/ag dealer to save some money! Now, you are just about ready for that cool season or warm season food plot.

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