The Proving Grounds has extremely rocky and very poor quality soils with limited nutrients and soil moisture holding capacity. From the very first, I knew that no-till was the best method for planting in these soils. Here on GrowingDeer we’ve shown the changes and development of our food plot program over the years. Better soil is the result of the methods used to build and maintain the food plots.
The program has evolved into what I call the “Buffalo System” because it mimics how the great prairies were built. I'm very confident the Buffalo Food Plot System will improve soil health and produce quality forage anywhere. The Buffalo System has saved me a bunch of money and time. However, just like the results of a diet or fitness program, the results won't occur overnight.
Here are 7 steps to get started creating better soil and better food plots using the Buffalo System:
- Take a soil test.
- Add soil nutrients as recommended by a soil test analysis.
- Terminate any existing weeds with an herbicide (glyphosate).
- Drill the fall Buffalo Blend from Eagle Seed 45 – 60 days before the first expected frost and when there's adequate soil moisture or a forecast of rain (80% or more).
- Monitor the crop growth with a utilization cage.
- Next spring when the soil temperature is 50 degrees or higher and there’s adequate soil moisture drill Eagle Seed forage soybeans into the existing fall blend.*
- Terminate the fall crop after the beans are 2 – 4″ tall by using the Goliath crimper or herbicide (depending on presence of weeds).
Why do I use this system? It’s because I want the biomass of terminated cover crops for weed control and slow release fertilizer. Earthworms and many other beneficial critters will convert the terminated crop to high quality fertilizer. These soil building critters prosper on year old or older biomass – not the green or fresh biomass that’s just been crimped. Therefore the more years the soil is covered with terminated forage without tillage (or fire) the faster the soil will improve due to significantly increased populations of earthworms and 1,000s of other beneficial critters.
Unless deer consume all the forage, it's easy to build organic matter causing the plots to hold soil moisture and nutrients much better! Depending on the size of the plot and number of deer using it I plant Eagle Seed's forage soybeans or their warm season Buffalo Blend during the spring. This rotation has worked extremely well at my place to attract deer and improve the soil quality. During the fall I plant Eagle Seeds Broadside or Fall Buffalo Blend as both are relatively drought resistant and grow in a wide variety of soils.
The Buffalo System isn’t a formula that can be used once and instant results occur. It is a scientifically sound system of forage management that will result in improving the soil’s moisture holding capacity and capturing nutrients from the air and soil. In addition, it attracts and benefits deer and other critters! This is an easy win – win. It absolutely has been a game changer here at The Proving Grounds. Remember, big antlers start in the dirt.
Growing food plots and enjoying Creation,
*I use a Genesis no-till drill and Goliath Crimper to implement the Buffalo System. These tools have allowed me to save a huge amount of time and expense of lime, fertilizer and herbicide.