HOW TO MAXIMIZE FOOD PLOT POTENTIAL WHILE IMPROVING SOIL HEALTH AND REDUCING COSTS (EPISODE 612 TRANSCRIPT)
This is the video transcript. To watch the video for this episode click here.
>>GRANT: This week, I’m excited to share some big news.
>>GRANT: Many GrowingDeer viewers will remember that when Tracy and I purchased The Proving Grounds, there were no food plots here. It was basically a burned-out cattle farm. But as budget allowed, I started designing and creating a few food plots and expanded that program through time.
>>GRANT: As the habitat improved, so did the quantity and quality of critters. That includes game and non-game species, and my family, friends, and I have been able to enjoy some excellent hunting opportunities.
>>GRANT: Through the years I’ve learned several valuable lessons about food plots from successes and failures.
>>GRANT: I recall one year when I didn’t have many acres of food plots, I got the bright idea to plant corn in a couple of them. That corn can be a really nice attraction during the hunting season. But when you have limited food plot acreage, it takes up critical food plot real estate during the growing season and doesn’t provide anything for deer to eat.
>>GRANT: And that’s the time of year when, of course, does are nursing fawns and bucks are developing antlers.
>>GRANT: That experience drove home the lesson of making sure each food plot is productive as it can be – both in quantity and quality – throughout as many days of the year as possible.
>>GRANT: Before Tracy and I purchased The Proving Grounds, I had heard of Eagle Seed and their history of selectively breeding Roundup Ready forage soybeans.
>>GRANT: Folks that hunt near soybeans in large ag fields know how attractive they can be during the early hunting season and that the pods are a high-quality food for deer during the late season.
>>GRANT: I planted Eagle Seed forage soybeans for several years here at The Proving Grounds and had many successes.
>>GRANT: But while I was using those beans, I was always experimenting, trying to find ways to maximize the quality and quantity of forage produced in every plot.
>>GRANT: As the habitat continued to increase here at The Proving Grounds, so did the number of deer. And as a result, my food plot sized fields couldn’t provide enough forage for the deer herd, and that’s because deer like beans so much, oftentimes they would browse them pretty heavily as soon as they germinated, and the beans would never reach their full height, which allowed a lot of sunlight to reach the soil and weeds to grow.
>>GRANT: Many other food plot farmers have experienced the same – the food plot production being limited by the amount of browse pressure when they plant a single species and it’s extremely palatable to deer.
>>GRANT: This problem has been compounded by reduced doe harvest for several years throughout much of the whitetails’ range.
>>GRANT: I began studying ways to improve the soil’s health, as well as forage production, without spending an arm and a leg on fertilizer, herbicide, insecticides, and GMO seeds.
>>GRANT: These studies led me to learn much more about what was going on below the soil as well as above.
>>GRANT: The family that owns Eagle Seed and I had a wonderful relationship for many years. But as we both become more focused on what we do – me doing food plots and them doing soybeans – we decided it was best for us to go our separate ways and pursue our interests while remaining friends.
>>GRANT: While researching ways to improve soil health and increase forage production, I kept coming across the name of a seed company called Green Cover.
>>GRANT: Green Cover is a very large seed provider in the ag world, and as I learned more about them, I realized our research goals and our manners of doing business were extremely similar.
>>GRANT: They’re primarily focused on improving the soil’s health while reducing the cost to establish crops. They’re really focused on releasing that soil’s potential, and it’s often been suppressed by the use of too much synthetic fertilizer, herbicides, pesticides, insecticides, and other things that damage soil quality.
>>GRANT: Throughout this spring, we’ll be sharing the techniques I’ve learned on my own and from others and techniques that Green Cover’s staff has learned as they plant their test plots and production fields.
>>GRANT: When I toured their primary facility in Bladen, Nebraska, I was very excited to see in more detail their research about planting blends of species to improve the soil’s health.
>>GRANT: I was really excited to learn they produce some of the seeds they sell and carry about 150 different varieties of seeds.
>>GRANT: Heck, they carry some forage species I’d never even heard of, and I’m super excited to use those and some of the blends we’re creating together.
>>GRANT: They’ve got some great observations of how deer use their test plots, and what they’re hearing from farmers that use their seed – what deer are eating on, and what time of year deer prefer different species.
>>GRANT: During my visits with Keith Berns and the Green Cover team, I realized that much of their research applies directly to food plots.
>>GRANT: Keith and I recently met at their facility in Iola, Kansas, and based on that conversation, I’m really excited to share this announcement.
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>>GRANT: Man, I’m so excited today to share with y’all a partnership GrowingDeer has just entered in with. But we’ve been working on this for some time with my now really good friend, Keith Berns, and his company, Green Cover Seed. Keith, thanks so much for coming on with GrowingDeer.
>>KEITH: Yeah, we were really excited about it, Grant. We share a lot of things in common from character to a love of plants and animals and the outdoors, so we’re really excited about where this could lead.
>>GRANT: Yeah, I want to tell y’all how I actually “met” Keith.
>>GRANT: Of course, y’all know I’ve been really big into improving soil health and doing that very cost-efficiently – not adding a bunch of synthetic inputs.
>>GRANT: And I was learning, like a lot of people, watching YouTube videos and I saw Keith on there. And he’s telling me about success with putting different species together and what was happening to the soil – not only right then, but future crops or a production of maybe a grain crop, soybeans, or corn planted after that. And I really got keyed into that.
>>GRANT: And then I learned a little bit about their company, and I realized that our mission statement – which is helping people enjoy Creation and knowing the Creator – was very similar to Keith’s mission statement for their company. Would you mind sharing your statement?
>>KEITH: Sure. Yeah. Our mission statement at Green Cover Seed is to help farmers and ranchers – and really to help people – regenerate God’s Creation for future generations.
>>GRANT: Yeah. So very similar.
>>GRANT: And we never knew each other until a few months ago.
>>GRANT: But we were going down the same path of helping people improve the land and have fun doing it. So, there was just a lot of great things going on there.
>>GRANT: You all know, man, I’ve been putting blends together for a long time. I’ve been no-till there at The Proving Grounds for 20 years; wasn’t a lot of options, right? It was all rock. You weren’t gonna get a disc out there.
>>KEITH: That’s right.
>>GRANT: Keith has been to The Proving Grounds, y’all. He’s seen it and knows what’s going on. And then I started, you know, started just like winter wheat. And then I, “Well, I wonder if I put some clover with it.”
>>GRANT: Well, Keith kind of went down the same trail with a different way. Now just tell us a little bit how you got there, Keith.
>>KEITH: Well, we got started in 2008. We did some experiments with different cover crop plots. My brother and I farm together. And so we were looking for a way to expand the business for some of the kids to come back. And what we decided to do is we’re gonna plant these strips of cover crops, but then we mixed it all together at the end and planted several different versions of the blends.
>>KEITH: What we found that year was that the blends did so much better than the individual species. They were more water-efficient. They were more effective at suppressing weeds. They just grew better, and there was more overall biomass there for the animals to eat.
>>GRANT: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
>>KEITH: And so, from the very beginning, we were really excited about what mixes could bring to the table. And so, we’ve really – we feel like we’ve been kind of the nation’s leader in developing these mixes and pushing the diversity within the mixes.
>>GRANT: Yeah. So, you think about it. I can remember way back in early days when I started Biologic. I would – I still have these pictures I can find somewhere. I’d plant, you know, this variety and this variety. And then at the end, I had a little seed left over, and I was doing this with a little over-the-shoulder broadcaster, you know – right down Tracy’s driveway – a lot of folks know my wife, Tracy. And I’d, “Well, I wonder what would happen if I was to push this all together. I’ll put it down there at the end, so no one sees it,” you know. And it would always be bigger, fuller, and less weeds.
>>KEITH: The best, yeah.
>>GRANT: And, you know, now we know so – I didn’t know anything then, but now we know through a lot of people’s research when you got different species growing together and different heights and different leaf size, you’re capturing all that light.
>>GRANT: It doesn’t make it to the soil, so weeds aren’t gonna grow. That’s – more of that later. But one thing I’m really excited about in this partnership, Keith brings in world leaders in soil health or microbiology or plant genetics – all these things – and provides free webinars, and he’s gonna let the GrowingDeer family tag along on these webinars.
>>KEITH: Yeah. Absolutely, because, you know, we’re bringing in all these world experts. Because, you know, our clientele is mostly larger farmers and ranchers, but the seed that we use is exactly the same.
>>KEITH: And the goals – many of the goals – developing the soil and producing a better product, it’s the same.
>>KEITH: And so, it would stand to reason that a lot of the lessons that we’ve learned are the same ones, you know, that the GrowingDeer family can utilize as well. So, we’re excited about that. We, you know, videotape them all, and they’re available on YouTube as well.
>>KEITH: So, it can be a really good library of resources.
>>GRANT: So, I’m just gonna tell y’all this is a super-strong partnership. Keith and I have hit it off and had many, many meetings. I’ve met his family. He’s met my family. We took this really slow to get to the stage we are now – which I think is appropriate.
>>GRANT: And I’m so excited for, you know, land managers, wildlifers, deer hunters everywhere because of the vast amount of expertise. This isn’t a company just buying seeds somewhere else and putting it in a bag with a big deer on it.
>>GRANT: I’m really proud, and we’ve already agreed, Keith’s current bags are just pretty much white or brown bags, right? Farmers don’t want to pay for a fancy bag.
>>KEITH: Yeah. That’s right. And some of them, you know, it’ll have our mission statement and some principles of soil health. But they’re just gonna be kind of the plain –
>>KEITH: – you know, paper polybag – nothing real fancy and slick.
>>GRANT: And deer hunters – I don’t want to pay for a fancy bag either. So, everything Keith was doing is something that really excites me. And I’m so excited to share this partnership and all the knowledge and information and really high-quality seeds with the GrowingDeer family.
>>GRANT: I’m really excited to work with Keith and the Green Cover team to put together high-quality blends that attract wildlife, improve the soil’s health while costing folks like you and me much less for a food plot seed.
>>GRANT: You can go to greencover.com and see the exact blends I’ll be planting here at The Proving Grounds. We’ve already planted some Early Start Release – that’s a clover blend created specifically for snow or frost seeding. And soon I’ll be planting a Summer Release once the soil temperature gets about 58 degrees or so.
>>GRANT: I really like that Green Cover’s information is extremely transparent. On every blend you know exactly the species in the blend, the percentage of each species in the blend, and the seed count for that species. You know all the information to make a great decision.
>>GRANT: And in addition to that, you won’t find any fancy names – like Big Buck Clover – or something where you really don’t know what the species is.
>>GRANT: Really, putting it all together, the last thing is you’ll find that the cost is extremely favorable for food plot seeds.
>>GRANT: In the meantime, I encourage you to go to Green Cover’s YouTube channel and check out their free information that will help you improve the soil’s health and produce more tons of quality forage where you hunt.
>>GRANT: We’ll be sharing a lot more information from Green Cover on our channels and social media, so stay tuned as we prepare for the spring planting season.
>>GRANT: You know, whether it’s a garden, a flower bed, or a food plot, planting seeds that kind of look dead and then spring to life and are very productive is a great way to enjoy Creation and a great illustration of what the Creator has done for us.
>>GRANT: I hope you take time every day to be quiet and listen to the Creator’s will for your life.
>>GRANT: Thanks for watching GrowingDeer.