FOOD PLOT SEMINAR: HOW TO HAVE BETTER FOOD PLOTS AND LESS WORK (EPISODE 646 TRANSCRIPT)
This is the video transcript. To watch the video for this episode click here.
>>GRANT: It’s almost time to start planting for the fall food plots here at The Proving Grounds. We’re just waiting on a good chance of rain in the forecast.
>>GRANT: We’ve been receiving a lot of questions about The Release Process™. And recently I did a webinar – or a Facebook Live Event – on all the steps of The Release Process™.
>>GRANT: Man, it seemed to go well. I had a lot of questions, but we realized with the live event not everyone can be able to tune in at that time. So, we’re gonna post this on all our other channels as just a regular episode, and I hope you enjoy this information, and it helps you become a better food-plot farmer.
>>GRANT: Hey, evening everyone and welcome to our first Facebook Live Webinar of this fall. Man, I’m excited; almost deer season. I’ve been practicing my bow a bunch – shooting good – checking out the food plots. We’ve just moved a couple of stand locations.
>>GRANT: There was a really, really late freeze here this year. So, very, very few white oak acorns and a few more red oaks. Of course, white oaks would be impacted by that freeze this spring, and red oak acorns this year would’ve been based on a freeze the previous spring.
>>GRANT: No white oaks mean those food plots are gonna be pretty hot. So, man, I want to help everyone have some really high quality food plots this year. But not just food plots that attract deer. That’s important. It’s kind of the primary reason; secondary is provide better nutrition. And then, you know, we spend a lot of time on food plots and a lot of resources. How can we do it better and improve the soil? So, that’s really what I want to talk about tonight.
>>GRANT: The Release Process™ is just really simply just some simple techniques based on observations of native habitat. And we’re gonna talk about those observations and how we can apply that – both with, you know, mechanical tools, a tractor, maybe no-till drill, and just hand tools. We plant a lot of our small – I call them Hidey Hole food plots – with hand tools.
>>GRANT: And they’re looking good. Daniel and I just was out looking at one and actually moved a stand around. Because, man, it’s gonna be a big attraction this year, especially with not many acorns in our area.
>>GRANT: Okay. So, we’re gonna get started here. We’re gonna talk about The Release Process™ tonight. And Tracy and I – my wife Tracy and I – purchased The Proving Grounds. We’re here just – just near Branson, Missouri – Southwestern Missouri in the Ozark Mountains. And we purchased this rough, rocky land. We bought it about 20 years ago.
>>GRANT: Now, I got to tell you I was spending some of our limited resources on food plots before I got the sidewalk built around our little house. But this is 403, and you can see my kids’ handprints in there. We actually didn’t get a sidewalk poured for about a year. So, it was pretty muddy.
>>GRANT: So, we’ve been here quite a while, and it was rough. Goodness gracious. This is a view right out of where we’re sitting now. Of course, this was taken a long time ago.
>>GRANT: And I want you just to pay attention to this powerline right here and kind of shape. This was an old cattle pasture that had been let go. And cedars were encroaching – you know, eastern red cedars; they’re kind of always spreading – and some old grasses out there and sericea lespedeza. Most of that brown stuff you see is sericea lespedeza.
>>GRANT: And what I’ve learned and what we’ve done – well we were able to take this rocky soil. And I put this white line on there because that’s the level part or kind of flat land up here. And below that, that’s a profile to soil, and that’s in the bottom. You think, well your best soil is down in the bottom.
>>GRANT: Well, you can see it’s just gravel is all down through there with a little bit of dirt mixed in in between.
>>GRANT: And people said, “Well, gosh, Grant, why would you ever try to grow deer there? I mean, you’re a deer biologist. Why did you move to the Ozarks? Why would you even do that?” And I was – rented the county’s no-till drill and started drilling right in this rock bed. This is not – I mean I didn’t – you know, obviously didn’t – this isn’t photoshopped. This is the real thing. That’s what we started with, and I want you to remember that – from this to where we’ve been using these techniques, we’re gonna share tonight – The Release Process™.
>>GRANT: You know, and I’m a student. I love to learn. And if you haven’t read or least watched about Lewis and Clark, I would strongly encourage you to. Now, they didn’t go through right where we are here in Southern Missouri. But they went through the Missouri River and talked about just tremendous amounts of wildlife and deep soils and the prairie grass, you know, as tall as on a horseback – just all kinds of good stuff.
>>GRANT: But right where we are, another explorer went through in the early 1800’s, – Mr. Schoolcraft – and he took a journal. Now, it’s written in kind of King’s English. It’s a little tough to follow but he went right through here. And part of this book I really like because he talks about the vegetation he was seeing and, again, how many critters and how lush it was.
>>GRANT: So, what we see now, a couple hundred years later, is nothing compared to what was here. And that’s what I’m talking about, the potential of the area, releasing the area’s potential. And that’s The Release Process™.
>>GRANT: So, we know – we have a baseline. We know what was here. And I envision based on their writing – of course they didn’t have colored images just, you know, areas of lush vegetations with lots of different species. It was all covered; no bare soil and probably some scarred trees where a wildfire had come through or Native Americans had set a fire and mixes of hardwoods and south-facing, west-facing slopes. Probably open because they burned more and north-facing slopes, they were timbered because it never really got dry enough for a good fire. Just tremendous quality habitat. That’s my vision of when I read these guys’ journals.
>>GRANT: And, you know, something you can tell from the early explorers and other soil scientists, other – other conservationists and myself, we’ve observed that the soil was always covered with vegetation year around. It wasn’t bare. It wasn’t exposed.
>>GRANT: And forage grew as many days throughout the year as possible. You know, you got a three-feet deep snow, nothing’s growing. But forage grew. And there was a wide diversity of species. It wasn’t a – a monoculture. You just don’t see monocultures or single species out in the wild.
>>GRANT: And the plant roots and critters – think about earthworms, you know, beetles, other bugs – it tilled the soil. And we get that from the explorers talking about the soil was kind of soft, and, you know, it was easy to dig in. And it was real fertile. And ruminants are, you know, critters that got a four-chambered stomach – it’s not four stomachs; it’s one stomach with four chambers. They were adding microbes to the soil.
>>GRANT: Now, the explorers didn’t say that. That’s observations we made, you know, but the explorers all talk about, and estimates show about 60 million buffalo on the great prairie. And, of course, there were buffalo in South Carolina and Northern Florida all over and elk and deer. And all these critters were adding microbes – we’ll talk about how they did that to the soil.
>>GRANT: And then kind of modern agriculture will come around and quite a bit different picture, right? The soil is bare. As you can tell, this has been what’s commonly called double disked – you know, we disk. This is on my place – a different place than here at The Proving Grounds. We’ve never disked here. In 20 years, we’ve never disked.
>>GRANT: But another little farm Tracy and I had long ago, you know, you can tell it was disked, and some weeds started coming up, so you’re disking it again.
>>GRANT: And you’re thinking disking is really loosening the soil. You see it throwing it up in the air, but maybe what you’re not noticing is we’re donating some soil to the neighbors. There’s some wind erosion going on just in this little field, and, of course, if there comes a big rain, there be some water erosion.
>>GRANT: As a tractor is moving forward, that actually – the physics pulls the disk down, and all – and it transfers some of the weight of the tractor to the disk – that’s how it cuts. And that puts more pressure on these eighth-inch wide blades, and that’s what causes what we call a hard pan. So, it fluffs the top but really compacts the soil below there.
>>GRANT: And you end up with – and I got this – these terms from a great soil scientist, Ray Archuleta, just a very intelligent guy. And when I look at this, some people say, “Oh what a seed bed.” But, you know, what I’ve learned to see is it’s naked, dead, cold, hot, and compacted.
>>GRANT: Now, it’s fluffed on top, but, you know, those disks are causing a layer of compaction. It’s naked – no plants on there. The wind can easily blow the soil away, and it’s dead. We’re killing life. It’s getting hot. Earthworms are literally getting chopped up, and it gets real cold in the winter. Those no insulation or real hot in the summer. The sun is shinning right on it.
>>GRANT: We compare that to, you know, native habitat, and the soil is always covered. And it’s very alive with different species of animals in and plants, of course. It’s not too hot or not too cold because we have this big layer of insulation over everything. And it’s not only just keeping the sun from hitting the soil. But it’s shearing the wind off so it can’t get quite so cold and just, you know, shadowing the soil so it doesn’t get too hot, and it’s aerated. All those insects and small mammals and plant roots are really aerating the soil. So, massive difference.
>>GRANT: So, let’s talk about this. The soil was covered with vegetation year around. How could we – how could we replicate that in our planting process? We’ll it’s called Planting Green. And literally, we’re just taking a no-till drill and planting right through the previous crop.
>>GRANT: So, in this case this would be a spring planting. You see cereal grains standing tall. And a no-till drill is designed to just cut through there and place seed at the exact right depth. You can adjust the seed depth depending on what you’re planting. And you can look at this versus disking minimal soil disturbance – just minimal. So, we haven’t disked twice. We just went from a crop that’s really thick and tall, so it’s probably choked out all the weeds – there’s no weed competition – and just placing seed at the appropriate depth in the soil.
>>GRANT: And you can do this by hand in a small plot. You can, you know, hold your broadcaster up high so you get your weeds – your seeds – covering better, getting over this.
>>GRANT: Now, on this particular little food plot here – this little hidey-hole – we had a big rain and a big wind, you know, right before we’re out here doing this. So, you can tell it knocked some of the vegetation down.
>>GRANT: And I always tell people when you’re broadcasting, you’re using this technique, broadcasting, you use about twice the seed that you would use if you were using a no-till drill. Because some of the seed’s gonna land on top of this down vegetation and may not reach the soil. And it’ll get wet and warm and germinate, but that root may not make it in the soil, and, therefore, that seedling will perish.
>>GRANT: So, you want to use, you know, a one and a half time, two times the amount of seed when you’re doing The Release Process™ by using hand tools to put the seed out – when you’re broadcasting the seed.
>>GRANT: And then after we’ve seeded – and I might – sometimes I wait a week or two. Sometimes I wait till the new crop is coming up, but we’ll simply go in there and use a roller crimper. This is called a crimper. And you can tell that the – I’ve waited until the seed heads on the small grains. And you can see the brassica seed heads right here. Seed heads are forming, but they’re really green. They’re in what we call the dough stage.
>>GRANT: If you opened one of these brassica heads up, there be a bunch of seeds in there, and you squeeze on the head, it would just kind of pop and water would come out. It’s not a hard seed yet. It’s not a viable seed. If you wait to crimp until the seed are all viable, you’re gonna shatter ‘em and just plant a bunch of that seed.
>>GRANT: So, I deal with timing to crimp is when the bulk of the species in your blend are producing seed and they’re in the dough stage. That’s when the plant is the weakest. It takes a lot of of energy to produce those seeds, so if you crimp during the dough stage, you’ll really terminate it. It won’t stand back up.
>>GRANT: Sometimes people will get excited, and they crimp a little early and a part of it will stand back up. Think about just driving across your yard when it’s green, you know, and lush and growing, and your wife gets made. She, “Oh, my gosh, I can’t believe you made tracks in the yard.” And then just, gosh, a few days later it stands up and you can’t even tell where you drove.
>>GRANT: So, crimping, we want to wait, which has advantages if you wait a little bit. That soil temperature is warming up a bit more and those planted seeds or seedlings are gonna jump out quicker.
>>GRANT: There’s many advantages to making this – This is just mulch. Just like in your garden. It’s mulching and keeping weeds from growing.
>>GRANT: And people often ask me, “Well, Grant, if it keeps weed seeds from growing, why doesn’t it keep the planted crop from growing?” And that’s a great question, and the answer is very simple. Most weed seeds – especially the bad ones, you know, pigweed, lambsquarter, marestail, you know, those types of weeds, hemlock – are really, really small. They’re like flour. They’re just really small. They’re even much smaller than a little clover seed. And that seed, if it’s on top the soil and it gets warm and wet and tries to grow, it will probably germinate, but it doesn’t have enough what I call on-board energy.
>>GRANT: Seeds have only so much energy on board – like a great big corn seed has a whole lot more energy than a pigweed seed. And if they can’t get through – this is probably four or five inches of mulch here, get up here, make a couple leaves and photosynthesize, they starve to death. If plants are photosynthesizing, they’re not making any energy – especially a brand-new little seedling. It doesn’t have any energy stored in the root system. Where a bigger seed – even a clover or soybean or if you’re planting in the fall wheat or rye or something – has a lot more energy, and it will poke up through here, put some leaves out, and start photosynthesizing.
>>GRANT: Now, notice a crimper, they’re designed specifically not to cut. These are blunt and about a half-inch wide, these fins. They’re just mashing the vegetation. They’re crimping it – cutting of the circulatory system.
>>GRANT: A real frequent question is, “Why can’t I just mow?” And mowing, of course, would cut this and some of it would sprout back and grow. It wouldn’t kill it. And you know when you mow it doesn’t put this really nice even layer of mulch down. It’ll throw it out the one side and right behind and kind of clump it up, and you have thick spots or too thick for any plant to come through or real thin spots that weeds and everything come through. So, a crimper is meant just to lay the vegetation down at an even depth all across there.
>>GRANT: And, again, you can do this by hand or in this case by foot. This is a foot crimper, and we’ve waited. You can see those clover seeds are starting to fill out – clover seed heads – and you can see in the background small grain seed heads are filling out, and you can just go through here and about every six inches pick it up, take a step forward, and put your weight on there. It serves the same purpose. Great tool for small food plots. I wouldn’t want to do an acre. That probably be an Olympic endurance event because it’s pretty good bit of work. It’s great training for elk season.
>>GRANT: Now, some people get excited and want to drill too early. They’re going, “Man, I don’t think my drill will make it through five, six-foot tall, you know, cereal rye and wheat and oat and real thick clover.” And they’ll drill real early. And you can see here that there’s no leaves on the tree, and the camera man’s got a jacket on. Man, it’s still cold and that soil is cold. And that could – you could survive that maybe, but what’s gonna happen is – this was just a demo; you can see people standing around and everything – but these seeds do germinate, but these other plants are still growing, and they’re gonna out-compete the new seedlings.
>>GRANT: This is really important. You may want to whip your phone out and take a picture or capture a screen shot. And this is from the NRCS. You can probably just search on NRCS soil temperature and find this graph if you want to study it in more detail. It’s real important you see ideal plant growing.
>>GRANT: This is soil temperature, not air temperature – soil temperature. It goes up to, oh, 80, 85 degrees, something like that. And at that point a hundred percent of the moisture in the soil can be used by the plant. And plants are growing at their full speed. Now this is not air temperature. Again, the air temperature could be really warm, but if that soil temperature surrounding the roots is this temperature, it works great.
>>GRANT: When you get up in the 90’s, plant growth slows. You get about 100, well, gosh, about 85 percent of the moisture in the soil is lost to evaporation and transpiration. It’s actually going through the plant and coming out the leaves and going up in the atmosphere.
>>GRANT: That’s just 100 degrees against soil temperature, and you get up there about 130 and you’re – you know, you may be saying, “Well, Grant, there’s no way the soil gets 130.” And we’ll show you that. But at 130 degrees, zero percent of the moisture – you know that great rain you got a week before? Zero percent of the moisture is available for plant growth.
>>GRANT: We want to keep that soil temperature nice and cool for maximum yield, maximum yield for a production farmer, maximum yield for a food-plot farmer. How do you do that?
>>GRANT: Well, you know, we had just – we had planted and crimped this. It’s not growing yet. So, it’s early summer, but it’s a warm day, and this device is really cool. It’s an infrared thermometer, and you hold it a certain distance from the surface, and it’ll tell you the temperature.
>>GRANT: So, you know, it’s a sunny day. I think I’m remember this morning it’s in the 80s in the morning, and, you know, if you put your hand on a black pickup on a sunny 80-degree day, it’s hot. You go, “Oh, man, I shouldn’t have put my hand there.”
>>GRANT: Well, so I’m taking the temperature of the surface of this mulch. It’s been crimped long enough. Of course, it’s terminated and brown, so it’s reflecting a lot of sun back taking that temperature, and in the morning, it was 103 degrees just right on top.
>>GRANT: Well, you can see we’re up here where only 15 percent of the moisture in the soil is going to be available for plant growth. 85 percent is lost in evaporation or transpiration – going through the plant and up through the sky. That’s on top, now, that’s not down where the roots are. But when I rake away that mulch, just, you know, I rake it really quickly before the sun can really warm up that soil and take the temperature, we’re back down here in ideal growing range. You know, that’s 103 to 87, that’s a – that’s a big difference just because of that mulch.
>>GRANT: And I’ll take this one further. Boy, just a little bit over, I turn the tractor a little tight, and the tractor tires scooted away all the mulch. And, you know, soil’s brown, black, whatever. It’s gonna absorb heat, and you can just tell that’s – that’s nothing – that’s no-good place for that seed to be. It’s – if it germinates at all, it’s probably gonna die. What do you think that temperature was? Take a guess where we go the next slide. Because, you know, think about how hot that black pickup gets.
>>GRANT: Well, the soil’s taking in the sun’s energy just the same – 131 degrees. Zero percent of the moisture is gonna be available for plants. As a matter of fact, it’s all baking out to a certain depth. It’s all evaporating.
>>GRANT: And that’s why that mulch layer – planting green and then crimping is so important. You know, something some guys taught me. It’s really not how much rain you receive, it’s how much moisture you keep in the soil.
>>GRANT: Anymore, it seems like the climate is such that instead of getting, you know, a half inch this week and half inch next week, we get four or five inches and then we don’t get anything for a long time.
>>GRANT: But whatever the case is, when you get rain, you want it to get in a big deep sponge – that’s how it was early on – and just stay there until the plant roots need it. You don’t want a real hard soil or a naked bare soil where it either hits and runs off or it evaporates out really quickly. This is really important data to growing crops.
>>GRANT: So, let’s just go a few weeks later or, you know, a month later. Boy, it’s the same place, and plants have really just come up. You’ve got that mulch layer there, and it’s protecting. You can see a little sunshine getting through here, but it’s not heating up the soil because it’s not getting to the soil. That sun’s energy is captured in this mulch. And you see very few weeds coming through. Got a little clover right here popping up, and, of course, you got a brassica and, you know, we’ve got some buckwheat leaves.
>>GRANT: Let’s go on up through here a little bit. Because I’m always big about planting greens. You can see how deep that mulch is. It’s just doing a great job of protecting the soil. Come on up. Look at that, man. You know, a hot day those are great color green. They’re looking wonderful. This is just ideal, just like mulching your garden.
>>GRANT: So, moving on down from those principles of soil health, forage grew as many days throughout the year as possible.
>>GRANT: Well, why might that be important? Well, I think I was guilty the first part of my career and certainly was taught this in college. I just looked at what was above the soil. You know, we’re taking protein tests or, you know, measuring bushels of corn or beans or something, but what’s below the soil is really important.
>>GRANT: Plants are about the best thing we can do for soil, certainly the opposite of tillage. And when you have plants growing as many days out of the year as possible, their roots are expanding in the soil. They’re actually adding some nutrients to the soil. We’ll talk about that in a second.
>>GRANT: Now, you know, this warmed up a little bit this day, and in this blend, I had some cereal rye. And cereal rye – we talked about growing as many days out of the year as possible – it will grow at about 28, 29 degrees in some sunshine.
>>GRANT: So, the other – you know, the wheat and the oats, brassicas, clovers – they’re just sitting there. They’re just going, “Oh, my gosh. This is cold.” And that’s one reason why I like to put a little cereal rye in my winter blends – one of the many reasons. Because it’s gonna grow and add a little bit more tonnage or pounds per acre, anyway, and really high-quality fresh growth for deer to eat during that late winter stress season.
>>GRANT: You know, it’s this time. You know that buck’s already cast his antlers. You can see the pedestals right there. Nothing’s growing, right? You got a deep snow. Nothing’s growing, but if you’ve been productive as many days as you can, you can see the snow on this deer’s nose where it’s been rooting through there trying to find some groceries. You want to have as good a food as you have every day possible of growing so it will carry over these tougher days.
>>GRANT: And look at those deer. Boy, they’re filled out. They’re looking good, and this is in the Ozark Mountains. This – You know, there’s no corn fields. There’s no soybean fields around. These deer are looking good. They’re going through the winter in great shape.
>>GRANT: And then we get on in the spring, and our cereal grains have bolted. Once the cereal grain – which would be like wheat, rye, oats – gets this round stem, it’s not that palatable to deer. But it’s still doing a great benefit, and I’ve got – I always have a blend, so I’ve got clovers and other species below that. That’s a big advantage of blends. So, I’ve got something to eat the full time.
>>GRANT: And these cereal grains at this time of year, they’re letting sundown through there, but they’re kind of shearing the wind off. So, if you get, you know, a really strong wind, a dry wind, it might dry out all my crop. It’s shearing off above that. You may have driven across Kansas and seen the big waves of grass blowing or something like that.
>>GRANT: So, this is later spring. And by the way, for you people that are really great observers, you look there you can see the mulch from past years’ crops laying on the ground still protecting that soil.
>>GRANT: Summertime the same thing. I want to blend of species. I want a lot of good deer food, and I want plants that maybe deer don’t eat that are really doing something great for the soil.
>>GRANT: Let’s zoom in here. Of course, this was just taken, I think, yesterday. Got milo heads coming on. That’s gonna be that early season grain before – before acorns is available or before corn is harvested knocked on the ground. They’re gonna come to this really quickly. And this year, of course, we talked about that late freeze we had. There’s not gonna be many white oak or early acorns. Deer are gonna be hustling this plot because they’re searching for carbohydrates at that time of year.
>>GRANT: Of course, we’ve got sunflowers and sunn hemp right here. This is early morning, so leaves are still curled up. Buckwheat, and it’s getting pretty mature. Look here. There’s some bean leaves down in here. There’s collards if you look right down – that different colored leaf.
>>GRANT: I think there’s nine different species. Here’s a pea leafing. Can tell the difference between a pea and a soybean leaf. Got all these things going.
>>GRANT: Let’s just think about what we’ve got going on here. Here’s a big grass, and, you know, it’s gonna make a grain head to eat on. Of course, this is a grain head too, and it’s got – sunflower’s a huge root system, and they’ve already consumed a lot of the buckwheat. It was great early on. Sunn hemp, they consume early on, not so much at this stage, but it’s pumping a massive amount of nitrogen in the soil.
>>GRANT: The beans and peas, well they’re still browsing on those right now.
>>GRANT: So, this is what I call a time release blend, but it’s not just time release above the soil. All these plants have different roots that are doing different things we’ll talk about in a bit.
>>GRANT: And a wide diversity of species. Well, I think we’ve talked about that. Of course, we know that in native. Here at our farm through the years – not at any one time – you know, spring, summer, or late fall, we’ve identified about 170 plus different species of native grasses and forbs. Now, again, that’s not any one week.
>>GRANT: But those early spring plants that come up quick, flower, and die and mid-summer or late summer, early fall, late fall, tremendous diversity.
>>GRANT: You want to have that same thing in your native vegetation, how you’re managing it and your food plot crops.
>>GRANT: And this is a question I get all the time about The Release Process™, is “Grant, I can’t do that because I got a no-till drill, and I can only plant one species at a time.” And I don’t know why people say that. For over two decades I’ve been planting blends in a single box no-till drill.
>>GRANT: And I think what happens is, is, you know, there’s different size seeds and different textures. Some are real smooth. Some are a little rougher. They’re small, big, and it gets in here and it almost settles like a creek bottom – like settlement, big rocks, little rocks, little sand in between. That sand might be like the clover seeds or brassica seeds or something.
>>GRANT: In decades of doing this, I’ve never had to deal what I hear the old stories or wives’ tales that, “Well, I started planting, and all those little, small seeds shook to the bottom of the drill, and they’re all on one side of the field and all the big seeds were on the other side of the field.” I’ve just never seen that driving around America helping people. I’ve just – I’ve never seen one example.
>>GRANT: Get a good blend, make sure it’s mixed up well before you put it in your drill, toss it in that drill, and take off planting.
>>GRANT: This – I wish, you know, I could ask you, “Anyone know what this is?” But this is a very high-power view of a bigger plant root and the little hair roots. The real action happens in these little hair roots. And these little moisture droplets, that’s called exudates. That’s a fancy name that the plant is leaking out, and it’s not leaking. It’s on purpose, putting out these pretty cool chemical compounds.
>>GRANT: They’re usually a low-strength carbonic acid, but different plants have different forms of this, and as an example, buckwheat is famous – these exudates out of buckwheat are famous for freeing up phosphorus in the soil. That’s why I haven’t – one reason I haven’t had to add any fertilizer in eight years here at The Proving Grounds.
>>GRANT: When you got a blend of species, they’re putting out different strengths of this. And I got this slide from Jimmy Emmens in Oklahoma. Jimmy’s a huge regenerative ag, no-till farmer, a brilliant farmer. Thanks, Jimmy, for letting us use this on the wildlife side. It’s just an excellent example of that bottom of the iceberg. Remember the bottom of the iceberg is larger than the top of the iceberg, and it’s important that we pay attention what’s happening down there.
>>GRANT: And then another principle we need to plan on. Of course, plant roots and critters till the soil. But I’ve just said I don’t want to disk and, you know, historically that settlers, early explorers talk about how soft the soil was. They could dig anywhere, how deep it was.
>>GRANT: Well, we just did this recently and then obviously same time, same shirt. I’m not wearing the same shirt different days. But this is a young soybean. You can see a nodule forming there. That’s where nitrogen is being converted from atmospheric through the plant going into that nodule. And here’s a young sunflower.
>>GRANT: Now, notice soybeans. This is young but has this root structure – you know, some finger roots coming off, a few hairs – where sunflowers are gonna have this big, broad, fibrous root system. If you think about it a sunflower has that great big head, almost like a sail when it gets bigger catching wind. And it takes this big fibrous root system to keep it standing up, so tilling the soil a different way here, right.
>>GRANT: Then we go over here. This is a milo plant, and the big grasses – corn, milo, big sorghums, whatever – have these great big roots. They get big and tall. They’re a bunch of plants taking up there, and they really need stabilizing soil, and they got these great big roots.
>>GRANT: Well, think about the tillage that’s happening when this root goes through, softens, loosens, pushes around the soil. And you get a blend of eight or nine or ten different plants planted together, all of them having a different, unique root structure – that’s really serving to till the soil.
>>GRANT: And this soil has not been tilled in all the time Trace and I have owned The Proving Grounds, so 20 plus years now. And great quality soil should look like really rich, black chocolate cake. It’s moist. It’s light. If you really look at this, you can see all the pores and spaces in here. I can see worm holes in here. There’s a big worm hole right there; worm hole right there. That’s what you want your soil to look like.
>>GRANT: And if you think about it, water, a rain could easily infiltrate that – just sit there like a big ‘ole sponge holding it. And you get that by never disturbing the soil and letting the plant roots and the critters in the soil do the tillage.
>>GRANT: Here’s my favorite critter. Man, earthworms, they’re just, you know, God’s soil builders. They’re perfect for this, and they were created for that. Look in here. I mean I can see worm holes here and here and here and a big one right here. Maybe this one just come out of that one right there and right there. It’s a moist day. They’re gonna be feeding on top early in the morning a little bit.
>>GRANT: You know, what worms feed on is decaying plant material. That’s they’re favorite – not green, not like, boy you crimp at the day and they’re feeding on it next week. This is probably from a year and half, two years previous, and other stuffs growing. And they will take some of this, really pull it down these big worm holes. So, they’re moving slow-release fertilizer right down into that root zone better than we can ever till. There’s never been a tiller made that does the perfect as this.
>>GRANT: You know, when you really till soil, you let too much air in, and it oxidizes. It does some destructive things to the soil and to the critters living in there. And, of course, you run a big disk there, you’re chopping this guy into pieces. But if you let these guys do the work they were created to do, they let the perfect amount of air in and out of the soil, and these holes. Water can easily infiltrate.
>>GRANT: Some of these species of earthworms will go, you know, five, six feet deep. Man, they’re doing deep tillage. And they’re working 24/7. They don’t need any diesel fuel. They never have a flat tire. They’re – they’re the perfect soil builders. I want these guys working, and to do that I – like any worker – I have to provide high-quality habitat.
>>GRANT: And by providing high-quality habitat, I need the soil shaded like mulch, like in your garden. Some of y’all get your fishing worms out of mulch in your garden. I need to provide them food – past years’ decaying vegetation, and if you have just a very few earthworms and you provide high-quality habitat, they will multiple quickly.
>>GRANT: Now, which place do you think an earthworm wants to make a living over here where the blender is coming through and cutting up Billy Joe Bob and all his cousins and probably him or here?
>>GRANT: And now let’s just take this a little bit deeper here. This tractor tire is running on, you know, raw dirt. There’s some friction. There’s some wear and tear. Plants at this stage are 50, 60, 70 percent water. These tractor tires, they’re running on a cushion of water.
>>GRANT: And research out of Ohio State shows that when you’re doing this planting green, you actually get better fuel economy than you will here because there’s more friction – so many reasons to do this.
>>GRANT: Here’s a little graphic we’ve shared, but this is what happens when they disk. Here’s your soil and the earthworms that have been making tunnels through here. Nutrients are kind of all through here, and you see some past roots from the past crop in there.
>>GRANT: And then you bring the disk through. Here comes the disk, and boy it does. It fluffs it up a little bit at first and there’s actually too much pore space, too much air space, but then that sinks down.
>>GRANT: And you’ve known this, right? You’ve dug a hole to plant a tomato or a tree and there’s never enough dirt to go in because when you do it like disking, all that settles down. And then you plant and your plant hits this really hard. I talked about it earlier. The bottom of that disk makes a pan called a “hard pan.”
>>GRANT: And oftentimes roots can’t get through that. It’s called J rooting, and, therefore, they got to make a living in these top few inches, and they have no access to the nutrients below that, where in healthy soil your roots are going all the way down. And just think, if you can get three feet deep versus six inches, how much more access you have to the nutrients that are available. This is an incredible illustration of why you don’t need to till the soil.
>>GRANT: And when you till the soil and you create that hard pan, water can’t infiltrate. This is one of my favorite pictures. I actually took this in Arkansas. But, you know, someone spend a whole bunch of money on an irrigation system, but if this water just, you know, infiltrated the soil like it was meant to and when it was then available when the crop was growing, you wouldn’t need to spend all that money on irrigation or the equipment. Wouldn’t have to go out there all the time and check his irrigation.
>>GRANT: And even better, if they’d had a cover crop planted – this looks like they probably had beans in there – if they had had a cover crop planted through the winter, those roots would’ve been loosening the soil, feeding the critters in the soil, and much more of that water would’ve infiltrated.
>>GRANT: This is called ponding and you see it driving through ag land all across America. Now, there were natural wetlands. But it’s kind of odd you got an irrigation system sitting on top of what might’ve been a natural wetland. I mean, you know, just think this through folks. And a change in farming practices would’ve avoided all this and saved that landowner a lot of money.
>>GRANT: And, of course, when you till the soil and leave it bare all winter, you can expect erosion. You might think, “Well, that’s not much, a couple inches deep. You know, that’s not much.” And there’s probably more of it through the field. Here’s about an acre or so, something like that. You got to remember that thickness of a piece of typing paper across an acre – just the thickness of one piece of paper – is a ton of soil. So, it doesn’t take many of these little channels four or five inches deep to equal the thickness of a piece of typing paper.
>>GRANT: It may surprise y’all that research out of Iowa shows the average crop land – the average crop land is losing about five tons of topsoil a year – five tons of topsoil a year. It’s going down the Mississippi River at some point, right.
>>GRANT: And there’s this big dead zone you’ve heard about out in the Gulf of Mexico, and that erodes. It’s taking synthetic fertilizer and herbicide and insecticide and pesticide with it. I wonder how many cities down the way get their drinking water out of these rivers and streams.
>>GRANT: So, the soil was never meant to be bare. We don’t find any evidence of bare soil and, you know, native habitat unless it’s a buffalo wallow or an elk wallow or something. There’s no big patches of bare soil in a natural system. And there shouldn’t be in our farming practices either. It’s costly.
>>GRANT: You’re losing topsoil. The most valuable thing a farmer has is topsoil or a food plot farmer. And you’re moving that soil somewhere else, and whatever’s in that soil goes with it.
>>GRANT: And just take a moment or take a picture here. But you averaged about 25 earthworms per square foot – and that’s pretty healthy; that’s a lot – and they did their work, and they’re only working – let’s just say they only work 100 days a year. You’re way up north. Because I always hear, “Well, this won’t work up north. This will work where you are, but it will not work where I am.”
>>GRANT: Well, if you had this, that would be a 100 tons of earthworm manure per year. Now, some of that manure is being recycled quickly by plants or other insects, whatnot, but this is how you can add a quarter inch. Some people claim even more of topsoil a year per acre. Gosh, that’s amazing.
>>GRANT: You know, I was taught in school it took a thousand years to build an inch of topsoil. And that’s probably true for just doing the same system and counting on rock weathering, but if you have a really active living soil with earthworms and thousands of other critters in there, it’s amazing.
>>GRANT: Here at The Proving Grounds over the years some of our food plots we’ve built five, six inches of organic matter on top of the rocks. It’s amazing.
>>GRANT: And if you haven’t priced, you know, vermiculture or worm castings, a little bitty bag costs you, you know, a pretty penny, and think how much earthworms could put out there. So, I want them working 24/7 for me.
>>GRANT: And finally, you know, this is more recent scientists – not the early explorers – but ruminants added microbes to the soil. Well, why is that important? Let’s tie this kind of together.
>>GRANT: Well, I used to do a lot of work. This is Dr. Richard Harlow. He’s passed several years ago. He was a tremendous mentor to me, and he was a real hands-on scientist. He really taught me a lot. And that’s a deer rumen, and the fluid out of a deer rumen with some water added so we could separate it – talk about some stinking work, man. And Dr. Harlow, he didn’t, you know, he didn’t tolerate anyone kind of whining in the lab. There was no whining in Dr. Harlow’s lab. You just did your job.
>>GRANT: So, we’re sorting out what deer had been eating. This was out of some samples I took out of New York. It’s in the winter, so people were feeding them corn and, you know, you can see some evergreens there and some – just some big chunks of wood. These deer were obviously hungry – starving, obviously hungry.
>>GRANT: But in rumen fluid, how do deer break this down? They’re obviously – you know, they chew and chew, but they’re not getting it broke down and small enough for the large intestines to really absorb it. And researchers showed that in a cow or in a deer rumen one teaspoon of that green fluid none of us like to see after a shot has about a trillion microbes. A microbe’s kind of a fancy word for bacteria – about a trillion microbes in – in one teaspoon – and there’s gallons of this stuff in a big ‘ole buck or a cow or a buffalo or something.
>>GRANT: Well, what’s that tying to growing better food plots? Well, they got all these microbes in their gut, and they’re passing them on the soil.
>>GRANT: Deer defecate on the average about 24 times a day in the summer when they’re eating a lot. A little bit more moisture in the vegetation, they urinate.
>>GRANT: And what we don’t talk about a lot is they salivate. Man, that’s just a pipeline, a straight pipeline with no processing coming out of the rumen. And when they salivate a little bit – you’ve seen cows salivate; it’s more obvious in cows – they’re depositing those really beneficially microbes in the soil, back on the soil. You don’t have to buy it or spray it. You just got to have critters ruminants eating in the areas.
>>GRANT: You know, that’s why a lot of farmers now – one reason they’re switching to grazing their crop land – they’ll have a good crop and then they’ll plant a cover crop. And then they’re grazing not just the manure coming out the back end but it’s all these microbes that are really helping these farmers cut down on input cost and be way more productive.
>>GRANT: And this goes back to this great slide from Jimmy in Oklahoma. Those microbes interact with plants. There’s an economy. And a plant, of course, photosynthesizes. That’s how it makes a living – C6H1206, simple, simple formula for kind of the byproduct of photosynthesis.
>>GRANT: Well, you know, that carbon – C – carbon, a lot of carbon. Plants are real high percentage carbon. All living organisms need carbon. Humans are like 70 percent carbon. It’s the number one element in us. It’s the number one thing in a plant.
>>GRANT: These microbes that do so much good for the soil need carbon. And the plant can – this is so cool in this communication. They can say, “Man, I need some phosphorus.” Now, I’m – I’m grossly oversimplifying this. And a microbe says, “I got phosphorus. I can break down a rock.” Microbes can break down the rocks. “I got phosphorus. I need some carbon.” And there’s an interchange going on. And microbes actually enter into the plants or feed off these exudates, and there’s an economy going back and forth. It’s really cool.
>>GRANT: I’m not getting those details because this is more about how, but I want to explain some whys, but my good friend, Keith Burns, at their website greencoverfoodplots.com, has the best seminar, presentation I’ve ever heard of this – all my college life, whatever. It’s simple enough even a wildlife biologist like me can understand.
>>GRANT: Just go on their website and go to Webinars and find the one Carbonomics, like economics because there’s an economy going on in the soil. But carbon is the currency; carbon is the currency. And if you’re any kind of serious food plotter at all, I strongly recommend you go check out Carbonomics. And just that – there’s nothing for sale there. It doesn’t end with “Hey, buy our seed,” or anything. Man, just go there and learn about this because it will make you understand this system and make you want to apply these principles even more to your food plots.
>>GRANT: Well, you know, we started here. And we did, we had disturbed the soil. You know, we used an excavator or dozer to remove those big hedge trees and the locust trees and, of course, the cedars. And used a round of herbicide or two to kill some of this, you know, sericea and other weeds out there. And you can see the powerline and sloping hill. Well, here it is today. We actually took this picture today. Which one, you know, is more productive?
>>GRANT: Goodness gracious, there’s tons and tons of forage per acre in this food plot. Some was real palatable early; some mid-season, some’s just getting ready to be palatable. To me that is truly picture perfect. And it’s just following these simple steps.
>>GRANT: And I want to let you know that this works anywhere. And I was here when – you know, I’m out in boots on the ground talking to people. “Well, man, that works where you are, but that – that won’t work down here south. I got real sandy soil.” And if you’re one of those folks saying, “You know, Grant, that’s – that’s good where you are buddy, but down here in Georgia, that – South Carolina, you know, coast to plain area – that’s not gonna work.”
>>GRANT: Well, we started a project about a year ago in Texas – East Texas – with my buddy George, and it’s real – If you’re not familiar with East Texas, it’s part of the Piedmont Belt. It’s pine trees and sand folks. That’s what it is. And got George to apply that.
>>GRANT: You can look at the episode we just released this week. And I think you’d be stunned at the change of the color of his soil in just one year – just a change of color and the tonnage he’s growing out of food plots where he had had failures for decades literally.
>>GRANT: George shared with us that he used to make about seven trips across the field. You know, he double disked and then he drug it out flat and then he’d, you know, Lyme and fertilize and then he broadcast seed then he dragged that out and had about 600 hours in the planting. And we started implementing The Release Process™. That went down to 90 hours. He’s actually planting more acres now than then.
>>GRANT: Part of some of the reason this all works – these simple techniques work – above every acre in the atmosphere, just above every acre there’s about 35 tons of nitrogen – 35 tons. Why would you ever pay for nitrogen, man? Just plant some legumes and let them transfer that into the soil. And if you don’t know this, if you put a bunch of synthetic nitrogen down, and then let’s say you plant beans or peas or clovers, some legume, well the plants are lazy like humans. They’re going, “Well, heck someone’s giving me this. I’m not gonna make it.”
>>GRANT: And you notice those big nodules on the plants from my food plots because I haven’t had any fertilizer in eight years. Those legumes gotta make it. You know, just simple math here.
>>GRANT: A really, really good crop of crimson clover, if you let it get pretty mature – you can’t be killing it, you know, when it’s six inches tall – you let it get pretty mature, gosh that can pump 100, 150, even 200 pounds of nitrogen per acre in the soil. And if you don’t harvest it like me, you’re just planting – the deer have been browsing on it and you just drill through it, that nitrogen is not going anywhere. But if you disk, that baby’s going back up in the air.
>>GRANT: And then every acre or so – this is some great, great work out of a lab in Nebraska – a big soil lab – and they didn’t believe it. They got challenged by a great researcher out of Australia. And so, they did some testing, and they found out there’s about 10,000 pounds of phosphorus per acre. Phosphorus is, of course, an element of rock, and all the soil will come from rock at some time, so. But you get your soil tested. “Grant, it says I only got five pounds per acre.” Well, that soil test is showing you what’s in a plant available form. This is total phosphorus.
>>GRANT: And those microbes we’re talking about – the little bacteria, why you want to protect them, why you want to build a great environment for them – convert this phosphorus to a plant-available form.
>>GRANT: And I’ll share with you the soil test we all get most of them aren’t all that accurate. I’m not – You know, don’t get mad, but most of them you see on there use a Mehlich-1, or Mehlich-3. That’s where they take an acid and extract these things out of your soil sample to tell you how much is available.
>>GRANT: But no one’s pouring acid out here on my soil, right? There’s carbonic acid coming out of the plants. But we have rain. And so, a test you may want to check out at some point is, you know, a water-based test. Because that’s gonna give you a truer representation of how many nutrients are available to your plants.
>>GRANT: I want to go black and white here because I don’t want to be in distracted, but this is how I’m getting away with not adding any fertilizer – you know, no manure, no compost, nothing to my crops and some of my clients are too.
>>GRANT: It’s by letting this plant system in a variety of plants and different roots and all the microbes and earthworms make the elements that are available and make them available to plants.
>>GRANT: Now, if you say, “Grant – and I’ll tell you, if you just go from scratch – I mean you’ve been fertilizing heavy and you say, “Hey, I’m all in, man. I’m gonna start The Release Process™.”
>>GRANT: Here’s what I want you do. I want you to do a soil test each year – you know same time each year roughly. And the first year let’s just for easy math it says put out 100 pounds of nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium. Well, your soil’s been addicted to this synthetic, so if you go cold turkey and don’t give it anything, you’re gonna have a pretty small crop.
>>GRANT: So, the first year put out 75 percent of what’s been recommended – the first year. Then the next year do another soil test because your soil has changed, and that next year only apply 50 percent. Think about the savings.
>>GRANT: And the third year you gotta do another soil test because, again, your soil is constantly changing and put out about 25 percent. And if you’ve done it right – you’ve done all the steps we’ve talked about here – by the fourth year, you should be humming no problem – no problem.
>>GRANT: Almost everyone puts out too much fertilizer if you’re doing this process. You got to wean off to get the full benefits, because synthetic fertilizers are harmful to many of these microbes and small insects in the soil.
>>GRANT: I get this question a lot. “When’s the easiest time to start The Release Process™?” And the easiest time clearly, unequivocally is now going into a cool season or a fall planting. Because weed pressure’s not that bad in the fall and freezes and frost they kill a lot of them. So, if you start now and you get a really good crop and you let it grow late in the spring like I do then you drill or broadcast into it and crimp it down, you’re just taking care of most of your weeds.
>>GRANT: You may first few years, you’re probably gonna have some breakthrough. You may be able to pull them by hand or you may have to use a little herbicide the first year or two. But you’re gonna cut way down on the amount of herbicide you use right off the bat, and you’ll get to where you barely need any.
>>GRANT: So, starting right now. If you start in the spring, boy there’s gonna be a lot of weed competition. And you don’t have the mulch layer down there to protect you of weeds. If you just plant – “I’m gonna plant a blend. Boy, I don’t worry about anything. I’m planting right here in this bare soil.” You don’t have that big mulch layer down, well the weeds are gonna germinate too, and they’re gonna compete with your crop. And if you plant a very diverse blend, there’s no herbicide you can spray over the top. It may not harm something, but it’s gonna harm something else.
>>GRANT: You might be able to spray something that kills grasses, well that’s gonna kill your milos or your small grains or whatever – not hurt your legumes – or you could spray some stuff 24DB or something on top of the legumes, but it’s gonna take out your broadleaves and grasses. So, if you’ve got a good blend, you pretty much have to wait till the end of the growing season to use a herbicide.
>>GRANT: The best way to improve the soil is health; it’s keeping it alive at all times. I had a real compliment the other day.
>>GRANT: Someone was touring The Proving Grounds with me, and, you know, we’d been out in here a little bit, and he just – we just kind of stopped and we’re talking. He said, “You know, Grant, I don’t know if I’ve ever been anywhere that’s so alive.” I mean we were seeing all kind of different plants, native vegetation and plants and birds and, you know, turkeys – saw some turkeys and deer – and just critters everywhere.
>>GRANT: Most of ag – most of what people do, I mean the disk it. That kills everything and then they apply insecticide or they’re using treated seed or herbicide or – they kind of, you know, try to kill stuff all the time. I want stuff living, man. I want as many bugs in the soil. I want earthworms.
>>GRANT: And you’ll find out that there’s – there’s a couple thousand of so good insects or microbes to every bad one. And if you’ve got really good ones going and good predator species, then they’ll take care of the species that are harming your plants.
>>GRANT: As an example, we were working out in Kansas the other day, and we saw some funnel spider webs. These are spider webs usually on the ground or low to the ground. If you look close, they’re shaped like a spunnel. They’re not the big web like you see in the Halloween cartoons. They’re real dense and they go down to a funnel, and that little spider is hiding down at the bottom of the funnel.
>>GRANT: Well, insects get in there, and they keep working down to get to the bottom of that funnel, and that spider’s waiting for lunch right there. Man, I love to see thousands of funnel spider webs throughout my fields because they’re taking care of the insects which would harm my crop.
>>GRANT: We’re gonna open this up for questions in a little bit. But I just want to share with you. Man, I’ve been so impressed with this and so is my family. There’s Raleigh and Rae. Y’all know my daughters if you watch much. And a couple nights bucks killed opening morning a few years ago, and there’s Rae with a good one she tagged. There’s Raleigh with an old drop tine buck, and my dad – last good buck my dad killed before he passed. Man, that was – and he killed a doe that day. Man, that was a great hunt.
>>GRANT: And I’ve killed a couple good ones out here. You know, The Release Process™ is – I’m decades into it. And I keep learning. I keep tweaking the blends or the timing. I keep learning. I want to keep sharing that with you. But I just tell you from the bottom of my heart, it’s the best way to take care of your land.
>>GRANT: We also use The Release Process™ on native vegetation. You could tell this buck was a native vegetation. That’ll be another webinar on how we manage native vegetation because, again, it’s not like what Lewis and Clark saw. It’s not like what Schoolcraft saw when he went through the Ozarks. And managing that native vegetation for its fullest potential will just enhance your property.
>>GRANT: I hope you enjoyed this information, and it helps you with a good plan to release the potential of your food plots.
>>GRANT: As you’re outside working, I hope you take time to slow down and enjoy Creation and even more importantly take time every day to be quiet and seek the Creator’s will for your life.
>>GRANT: Thanks for watching GrowingDeer.