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GRANT: It’s been a very wet and cold spring here at The Proving Grounds but, finally, the sun is out and we’re planting as fast as we can go.
GRANT: We just finished planting this food plot and I want to take a moment and share a bit more about the Buffalo System.
GRANT: When you look behind me, you notice it looks a little ragged. Most of the fall crop is laying down and a few sprigs are standing up.
GRANT: The reason most of it is laying down is because of the wet weather. We had to wait until now to use the no-till drill and the cereal rye was in the dough stage. When I squeeze a seedhead, moisture readily comes out. So, that’s the easiest time to terminate that tall crop and the no-till drill laid a bunch of it down.
GRANT: But we don’t want the rest of that making seed, so we’ll come in here in a day or two with the Goliath crimper and run over this, and that will lay everything down and make a perfect mulch bed to suppress weeds and protect those new soybeans coming out of the ground.
GRANT: We’re late so we need to plant as quick as we can, and the Buffalo System is much quicker than conventional farming. If we had to come in here and disk a time or two, or herbicide and apply lime and fertilizer and all that, we’d be a lot longer getting this plot established than using the Buffalo System.
GRANT: As it is, the amount of mulch laying down from the past crop is doing a great job of suppressing weeds for a couple of reasons.
GRANT: First, it’s so thick, not much light – not much sunlight – is reaching the soil. And without sunlight, those real small seeds, like pigweed or marestail, they’ll germinate, but they won’t have enough energy to get all the way up through the mulch and start photosynthesizing.
GRANT: Another strong component of the weed control is the allelopathic qualities of one of the crops in this blend.
GRANT: Cereal rye was the big small grain in this crop and it puts out certain chemicals out of the root system and some even leeches out of the stems like this that inhibit really small seeds from germinating. That allelopathic quality is not strong enough to keep something big like a soybean seed from germinating but it does a great job, again, on marestail, water hemp, pigweed – those are the big three that are really tough to control.
GRANT: And each of those plants, gosh, they can make a half million to a million seeds per plant. So, you know how small they are. They’re almost like flour.
GRANT: But when you put this on top here and it rains or whatever and that chemistry starts leeching out a little bit, I’m going to say we get 90 plus percent weed control, maybe 95, up to 100 percent weed control by that property.
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GRANT: Another big component of this system is conserving soil moisture. Now, we’ve had a bunch of rain and there’s great moisture right now for planting, but there’s no rain in the forecast. The spicket may turn off and we go from too wet to really dry in one week.
GRANT: But with all this mulch laying on the ground, it prevents soil moisture from evaporating. It does that a couple of ways – just the sun not hitting it and it keeps the soil temperature much cooler. And I’ll probably show you this in a week or so when the soybeans start germinating.
GRANT: But you see how light colored this mulch is on the ground? Well, that’s reflecting heat. I actually feel it hitting me in the face right now. And it’s shading the soil. And you know in the shade is much cooler than in open sun.
GRANT: I mentioned saving time and I’ll include saving money by not needing to add fertilizer. There was a series of plants in there – seven or eight different species in this blend. And their roots have been doing their magic all winter and they leak out – what’s called exudates – they’re little liquid things coming out of their roots and that’s doing wonderful stuff in the soil. But in addition to that, they were taking up nutrients in the plants. Different plants take up different ratios of nutrients.
GRANT: And by leaving it all onsite, as this starts breaking down, that releases those nutrients right back into the soil for the next crop.
GRANT: To understand that principle of this mulch releasing nutrients and nutrient cycling going on in the soil, consider it a great prairie. Gosh, no one was adding any fertilizer or lime out there and for a long time, it was supporting millions of buffalo, elk, deer and other large critters.
GRANT: Or look at Yellowstone right now or other large national parks. They’re supporting a lot of critters off native vegetation. No one is adding fertilizer and that is because of the nutrient cycle occurring.
GRANT: When we till, we disrupt that nutrient cycle and that’s why we have to have synthetic inputs. But with this system, that’s two parts. No-tilling – we’re never tilling the soil – and making sure something’s growing as many days out of the year as possible.
GRANT: And not just something growing but a blend of plants. Different species because they make different contributions to the next crop.
GRANT: The Buffalo System sounds perfect, right? It’s saving money; it’s saving time. But like all systems, to achieve those goals, it takes a little time and proper management.
GRANT: If you’ve been using conventional ag techniques – you’ve been disking, disturbing the soil and applying synthetic inputs, lots of fertilizer, what have you – that soil is not gonna heal during one crop.
GRANT: And I tell people to start like this. Get a really good cover crop going or a summer crop, probably soybeans. And if you’ve been adding synthetic fertilizer, do a soil test and it’s going to say you need ‘x’ pounds of whatever you need for what you’re planting. Well, don’t take it all away at once because you’ve created an environment that’s dependent on that.
GRANT: So, what I tell people to do is reduce what the soil test says to put out by 25 percent the first year. We’re weaning off. You’ll get some benefit the first year out of using the Buffalo System but not enough to compensate to pull all the synthetic components away.
GRANT: And then, the next year, soil test again because the results will be different than the first year and apply 50 percent of the recommended synthetic fertilizer. And by the third year, drop down to 25 percent.
GRANT: Again, you’re soil testing every year because the results will change. And the third year, you’re applying 25 percent. And by the fourth year, if you’ve been applying the soil health improvement strategies, you should be good to go and you shouldn’t have to apply those synthetic inputs.
GRANT: When you have a big, robust crop like this was right before we planted, there’s going to be a lot of insects calling the area home. That doesn’t bother me at all and I don’t use any insecticide. The reason is, and research shows this really clearly. In a healthy system like this, there will be a bunch of really beneficial insects and most of those are predators and they attack and kill – consume – the insects that are doing damage to your crop.
GRANT: So, I don’t want any insecticide. I don’t want my seed coated with insecticide. I’m not spraying any later. And I’m building up those beneficial populations of predators that control species that damage crops. And this is what happened in a natural setting.
GRANT: But if you spray an insecticide, well, you’re killing everything, right? You’re killing the beneficial predators and probably the targeted species. By allowing a natural system to come into play, you’ll keep those nasty insects under control and you’ll build up even greater populations of the predators.
GRANT: You’ve heard me share a lot in the past about earthworms. They were created by God to be wonderful soil builders. They’re the best laborer you have. They work 24/7. You don’t pay em; they don’t go on strike. I mean, they’re awesome.
GRANT: But they do require a good home. You can’t have a lot of earthworms and doze their home over. And that’s basically what happens when you cultivate or disk the soil. You’re crushing all their tubes and burrows. You’re killing a bunch of ‘em just by that action. But, in this case with the no-till drill, the Genesis drill, made a little slit every 7-1/2 inches about an inch deep, minimal soil disturbance, drops a seed, packs the soil over the top of it and moves on.
GRANT: Earthworms are doing great. Now, they don’t like it dry and the mulch layer we have is conserving soil moisture. They certainly don’t want it too hot. It’s tough digging fishing worms in dry soil that’s really hot.
GRANT: But here, we’re shading the soil. They’re gonna come out and feed. Now, they don’t feed on the stuff that’s laying down right now. That’s too green, too rank.
GRANT: They like partially decayed vegetation. The crop we grew last winter – some of it died early. But even more importantly, the previous years’ crop that we did the same process on, well, it’s a fine layer all across the soil here. And it is perfect earthworm food.
GRANT: By using this system, we can literally have millions of earthworms per acre and they do wonderful things for the soil.
GRANT: Some of the things they’re doing – well, earthworms, man, they defecate all the time. And that’s high-quality fertilizer. They’re taking this plant material, mixing it, doing all kinds of things. It’s going through their digestive track and when it comes out, it is almost the world’s best fertilizer.
GRANT: Earthworms aerate the soil. As they’re moving through and if we’ve got a heavy rain, instead of it running off, it goes right down those channels the earthworms made.
GRANT: We’ve shared in the past our infiltration test and I encourage you to set one of those up and do it where you’re farming or where you’re making food plots and see if your soil can infiltrate a couple of inches of rain in a couple of minutes. That way you have no runoff, there’s no erosion, no moving synthetic fertilizer in our water system. And the most important thing is, it’s not how much rain you receive, it’s how much of it you keep for that crop. And at this situation, we’re probably keeping 100 percent.
GRANT: Some people worry that whatever crop you’re planting – in this case, soybeans – won’t come up through the mulch. But that’s not a problem at all. A soybean is a big seed and has a lot of energy. So, it’s gonna get moist and warm and germinate quickly in these conditions.
GRANT: And it’s going to start reaching for the sun. Plants always reach for the sun. And it’s going to go right up through that mulch because it has enough energy. And as soon as it gets on top, a couple leaves come out, it starts photosynthesizing and that’s what takes over after that energy in the seed is used up. So, we’ve done this for years and I’m really confident, gosh, in a week or so, we’ll be able to show you rows of soybeans right through this field.
GRANT: Way less labor; way less cost. No erosion and better crops. What’s not to like about the Buffalo System?
GRANT: We’ll be sharing more about the Buffalo System as we continue to plant and come back and check out the food plots to make sure everything is going okay.
GRANT: But if you’d like to learn more before we get to those episodes, simply check out the food plot playlist on our channels.
GRANT: The Buffalo System is simply applying principles from natural systems to modern agriculture. We could probably all benefit from applying some principles learned from natural systems to our lives.
GRANT: One principle that’s extremely important is finding time every day to enjoy Creation. But most importantly, to be quiet and listen to what the Creator is saying to us.
GRANT: Thanks for watching GrowingDeer.