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GRANT: It’s been hot and dry at The Proving Grounds, but several weeks ago, we had a lot of rain.
GRANT: Those rains occurred during prime turkey nesting season and I was concerned. I think my concerns have been validated because now, several weeks after prime nesting season, we’re seeing a lot of turkey breeding behavior.
GRANT: It is common for us to hear toms gobbling while we’re out in the field working and seeing ‘em strutting with hens around.
GRANT: We’ve got Reconyx video of one hen with seven poults. But other than that, we haven’t seen a hen with any poults. Hopefully, here in a month or so, we’ll see some small poults running around and help build up our turkey population.
GRANT: When we received all those heavy rains this spring, there was no erosion in our food plots.
GRANT: Because we had the soil covered with mulch and living forage, there was no erosion and we didn’t lose any soil we’ve been working so hard to build.
GRANT: Bare soil during hard rains, you know you’re gonna have erosion and that soil doesn’t retain moisture because as soon as the rains are over, it starts evaporating out.
GRANT: The increase of organic matter we’ve experienced here through the years, not only has all these benefits, but helps keep the soil cool now that it’s hot and dry.
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GRANT: I recently took an infrared thermometer to the field to check the surface temperature. Recently, we shared how much surface temperature impacts the soil’s ability to maintain soil moisture.
GRANT: We recently used the Goliath to terminate our fall crop and planted soybeans in this plot.
GRANT: We’re at the edge of the food plot and where the tractor turned, it bared a little dirt. You can kind of see the curve right here. I don’t like that, but it happens.
GRANT: But it’s the perfect opportunity to use our heat gun – this measures temperature at the surface of bared dirt versus the top of the mulch where we used the crimper to terminate and then underneath the mulch.
GRANT: Now, we’ve talked about in the past that the soil surface is a huge factor – the temperature of it and how much moisture is out. So, let’s see what happens. I’m just gonna aim at this bare spot right here. Let it calibrate and do its thing.
GRANT: Whoa. 131.1. 131 degrees. You’re thinking, “How can that be?” It’s not 130 out here. But, remember, right on the surface, there’s more air friction. There’s more molecules moving and the sun’s radiant energy is just building up heat in that. The wind is blowing up here, but the sun’s radiant energy is just pounding the soil. 130 degrees.
GRANT: At that temperature, 100% of the moisture is evaporating out and plants can’t use it.
GRANT: That may seem impossible, but slow down a second, think about putting your hand on a dark car when the air temperature is 80 or 90 degrees. The surface of that car will be much warmer than the air temperature.
GRANT: I’ll just aim about a foot away and compare to the surface of the mulch. Very warm at 103 degrees, but almost 30 degrees cooler. And that’s because the soil is a little darker. The light-colored mulch – of course, it’s dead and dried out – is reflecting heat back.
GRANT: But what’s really important, to the soybeans that are germinating in here, is what’s the temperature below the mulch? Not only the mulch we just created, but last year’s duff also.
GRANT: So, I’m gonna go right here just where I was and scratch back – I’ve gotta be quick before the sun starts heating it up – make me a little hole in here; get down to the dirt. 87 degrees. 87 degrees. That’s 43 degrees cooler than bare dirt. 43 degrees.
GRANT: And that makes all the difference in the world to how much moisture is evaporating out and the biology – the life in the soil; the beneficial bacteria and insect and earthworms. Huge difference.
GRANT: This is a massive advantage of the Buffalo System versus tilling.
GRANT: It’s obvious that where the tractor tire pushed the mulch away, there’s no soybean seedlings breaking through. And we know why.
GRANT: The soil temperature is 130 plus degrees. It’s literally evaporated out all the available moisture. It’s a hostile environment for those seedlings.
GRANT: But, just a foot or so away, I see seedlings breaking the ground; germinating, sprouting – and that’s because it’s a much more favorable environment. At 87 degrees, it’s saving some moisture.
GRANT: It’s impractical to irrigate food plots – certainly here at The Proving Grounds and almost anywhere. But we can conserve moisture and that’s what’s important. And we do it through the Buffalo System.
GRANT: It’s powder right here. Literally powder right there. In what? A foot or two away at the most. Obviously, the same rain. I’ve got all this mulch, and I get below the mulch – I can actually squeeze it and make a mud ball. No difference, except covered.
GRANT: You know, that’s why I wear a big hat, folks. This is easy to understand. All of these advantages and suppressing weeds on top of it. That’s why I love the Buffalo System.
GRANT: I recently checked one of our Hot Zone fences at a plot we call BPP. This is a perfect location to use a Hot Zone fence and allow some of the forage to mature and be available during the hunting season.
GRANT: I’m in a food plot we call BPP and we set this Hot Zone up specifically so we’d have it right here for the late season in front of this Redneck Blind.
GRANT: We had the same setup last year and we had a great encounter with a mature buck we call Herman. Unfortunately, Herman had shed one side when we had the encounter. So, we’re hoping we’ll have another encounter this fall.
GRANT: When I was checking the fence, I noticed it’s a great illustration of how terminating the crop and leaving it in place really suppresses weeds.
GRANT: This is a relatively small food plot and we had the Hot Zone up last year so the Buffalo cover system grew really big. You can see all the duff on the ground.
GRANT: Outside the fence, the deer browsed the fall food plot pretty much to the dirt.
GRANT: We had a dry winter – rough growing conditions – and it just didn’t produce much tonnage.
GRANT: It’s important to tell ya – everything was done the same time. Same tractor driver; this was all covered same time; planted same time; and then we put the fence up.
GRANT: Inside the Hot Zone – very little weed pressure. The beans are looking great. Outside – tremendous weed pressure.
GRANT: Remember, inside the fence, the fall crop grew really tall, so we had mulch now to hold moisture and suppress weeds. Outside – because it’s a small plot – they browsed it very low.
GRANT: The difference is: this is gonna cost us more ‘cause now we’re gonna have to come in and spray, terminate the weeds and plant an experimental summer blend. And it’s not providing food for critters.
GRANT: Even though this wasn’t the plan, this is a great illustration. The Buffalo System works. We had a great cover crop and so it’s holding moisture and suppressing weeds.
GRANT: Outside – it’s almost like we tilled it. The deer had ate it to the dirt and now we’ve got tremendous weed pressure and not much moisture.
GRANT: It goes much further than that. As the landowner – now I’ve got to pay for labor, or spend my time, and come up here with the tractor and spray a herbicide to get these weeds under control before they go to seed. And what I’m gonna do – working with Eagle Seed – is plant an experimental summer plot in here to see if we can grow something the deer won’t over browse and still provide some nutrition.
GRANT: I enjoy addressing problems. So, I’ve been working with the folks at Eagle Seed to come up with some blends that we can plant during the warm season – the summer season – in these small plots that will build organic matter – tons of forage – and provide something for critters to eat.
GRANT: We’re going to be planting this special experimental blend soon, and we’ll keep you posted on our observations.
GRANT: We’ve also been working on maintaining a perennial clover food plot. It may not look like it, but I’m standing in a clover food plot. We actually filmed here earlier this year.
GRANT: That was early on and since then, the fall blend had a lot of time to grow. We had a long, dry winter with no acorns, so deer had browsed down the clover and the cereal grains close to the ground.
GRANT: Without the cereal grains and the clover being so short, this would have become a weedy mess.
GRANT: But once we started to get a little rain, the cereal grains popped up, making the perfect greenhouse for the clover.
GRANT: The cereal grains in that fall blend have now got three or four feet tall and it was time to trample, like buffalo, or terminate that crop.
GRANT: The cereal grains sucked up any excess nitrogen the clover was making and suppressed the weeds – A) by shading ‘em out and B) by using up the fertilizer – the nitrogen.
GRANT: It’s time to terminate the cereal grains now. We don’t want these seedheads maturing and becoming competition through the growing season this summer with the clover.
GRANT: We’ll use the Goliath crimper to terminate the cereal grains. We simply want to keep these seedheads from ripening and being viable. We don’t want them growing during the summer months and being competition at that time of year with the clover.
GRANT: By using the crimper, we’ll turn all these cereal grains into a thick mulch; the clover will grow right through that mulch, so that’s not an issue. But, it will also preserve soil moisture, allowing the clover to make forage many more months during the hot summer.
GRANT: As beneficial worms, insects and bacteria break down the crop we just terminated on top of the clover, it becomes wonderful slow-release fertilizer. The layer of mulch we just created will suppress most of the weeds in this clover field. And everyone knows controlling weeds in a clover food plot is a tough job.
GRANT: The Goliath made short work of terminating our cereal grain cover crop over the clover. By putting it down, we’ll preserve all that moisture; the clover will come through and the clover will be much more productive later into the summer.
GRANT: It’s probably worth mentioning we didn’t have to use any herbicide. I’m sure one or two weeds have popped up. But if we hadn’t had a cover crop, this would have been a weedy mess by this time of the year.
GRANT: Last year, the area where I live become a CWD zone. And we no longer can use any feed or minerals.
GRANT: As more and more areas are under the same restrictions throughout the whitetails’ range, I was seeking an alternative way to provide high quality trace minerals and provide better growing conditions for the forage.
GRANT: The folks at Trophy Rock have come up with the perfect answer. It’s simply ground up Trophy Rock, like fertilizer, and you apply it to a food plot like fertilizer.
GRANT: Trophy Rock is mined out of a natural mineral deposit in Utah. So, the guys at Trophy Rock started grinding it up much finer than a normal Trophy Rock and gave us some to try. It’s almost like using a soil supplement on your food plot.
GRANT: This is called Plot Rock and last year we did a test and we were thrilled with the results. Plot Rock dissolves into the soil and the trace minerals are taken up by the forage.
GRANT: I wanted to learn more about the potential of Plot Rock. So, this year, interns Skyler and Luke designed a research project.
GRANT: In six of our food plots, they designed test areas where they applied Plot Rock at the rate equivalent to 100, 200, 300, 400, and 500 pounds per acre.
GRANT: So, we have a control – areas where it’s not applied. And then five different rates applied at six different locations.
GRANT: Luke and Skyler will be working on the research project throughout the summer and I look forward to hearing and sharing their observations.
GRANT: We’ve shared a lot of subjects this week because there’s a lot going on at The Proving Grounds. I hope you have time to get outside and enjoy Creation. But, most importantly, take time every day to slow down, and listen to what the Creator is saying to you.
GRANT: Thanks for watching GrowingDeer.
GRANT: Oftentimes, there’s more going on at The Proving Grounds than we can share in our weekly episodes. But we find a way to put it on our website or in our newsletter. If you’d like to stay up to date, simply subscribe to the GrowingDeer newsletter.