IMPROVING SOIL HEALTH: HOW CONSERVING MOISTURE WILL GROW BIGGER ANTLERS (EPISODE 623 TRANSCRIPT)
This is the video transcript. To watch the video for this episode click here.
>>GRANT: Daniel and I are assisting a landowner in western Kansas today. It looks a lot different than The Proving Grounds, but the principles of habitat management are the same.
>>GRANT: Of course, you always start with any critter considering food, cover and water. No cover here, and there’s some springs on the property; plenty of water.
>>GRANT: There’s some cover right next to me in a CRP field – no food in there. That’s just grass. Deer don’t eat that grass, especially that type of grass. But in the cropland here – this is about 100-acre crop field – there’s zero food, zero cover.
>>GRANT: Now, this was a wheat crop that was harvested last summer and wasn’t replanted. A lot of people out in this part of the country call this fallow, thinking, boy, they’re really helping the soil. But I’ve got to tell you, this soil is white, hard and dead. This does not help the soil.
>>GRANT: We talk a lot about the sun hitting the soil and causing growth. But here, it’s a pretty dry environment and a lot of chemicals were used with this wheat crop and this has been idle for a while. There’s not even weeds growing. There’s nothing here for any critter – deer or anything else – to eat.
>>GRANT: In this situation as it’s been managed, it’s a biological desert. And we’ve talked about pines that weren’t thinned right being a biological desert and high-graded hardwoods with the closed canopy being a biological desert. Land like this, managed this way, is certainly a biological desert. This one even looks more like a traditional desert.
>>GRANT: That’s above the ground. But we know managing that underground herd – the earthworms and the critical bacteria; the microbes that are in the soil that really benefit it – well they need to feed too. That’s called managing the underground herd.
>>GRANT: And they’re fed off of exudates, or things that leak out of the plant roots. But there’s no plants here to feed the soil. There’s no photosynthesis.
>>GRANT: Photosynthesis requires green plant leaves interacting with the sun. Nothing here but dead vegetation.
>>GRANT: So with all that said, we know this is a biological desert above the ground. I brought the spade and let’s take a look below the surface.
>>GRANT: So, one thing you can’t see – at least I hope you can’t see – is Daniel and I have been out all day touring the property. And I’ve got grit in my mouth. I’ve been chewing gum and spitting it out trying to get the grit out.
>>GRANT: Because a field like this that’s not really covered, and the wind is picking up soil particles and blowing them. And typically, the smaller the particle, the more valuable it is. So, we’re losing soil today and probably most days here in western Kansas due to wind erosion.
>>GRANT: When I look at the top of the soil, gosh, it’s a very light tan. It’s – it’s kind of getting close to white. And we talk a lot about the importance in carbon. We’re primarily carbon; deer are primarily carbon; plants are primarily carbon.
>>GRANT: Carbon is black. When you see white soil like this, that’s because the carbon is gone and it’s in the atmosphere.
>>GRANT: Let’s see what it looks like a few inches deep – what we call the root zone. I’m going to go down six, eight inches. We’ll flip it over and take a look.
>>GRANT: Now you know at my place we often find earthworms. I’ve got to put some weight on there just to get down in this brick-type soil here.
>>GRANT: Golly, gee. That’s hard dirt. All right. We’re gonna pop some over here. A little bit of moisture down there – not much. You can see right here how the wind has evaporated. This is cool.
>>GRANT: See how light this is about an inch deep? That’s where the – there’s nothing living. Down about maybe an inch, inch and a half, there’s moisture. The top of the ground is dust. There’s nothing removing moisture.
>>GRANT: That’s the wind and the sun evaporating moisture out of the soil. And it’s rarely how much rain or precipitation you get, it’s how much you keep.
>>GRANT: I’ll tell you right now, most of irrigation is unnecessary. If they were keeping the moisture due to good practices, they would not need to irrigate. But if you lose it like it has been lost here, then you have to irrigate, which is very expensive and not environmentally friendly.
>>GRANT: This is a perfect example of that. And when I look at the bottom side, just a couple of inches deep, it looks like a brick. There’s not one worm hole. There’s no sign of insect life at all. It’s – it’s like a brick. And I’m going to break it, and it breaks straight, just like a brick.
>>GRANT: That is not good soil. No wonder they fallowed the ground. It’s not productive enough to have a crop right after a crop.
>>GRANT: A little deeper, I see no worms. And again, no structure; the roots aren’t hardly holding it together. You can see why this erodes so easy.
>>GRANT: No living roots here. You think about getting a big-ole, two-inch July thunderstorm. I mean, thunder claps and within 20 minutes, you’ve got a couple inches of moisture; that’s critical moisture in this western part of the country. It’s not going to stay here. It’s going to run down the slope.
>>GRANT: This is not good management and we’ve already created a plan; worked with the local farmer. We met a local farmer today and we’re going to plant cover crops in here and graze cattle on it.
>>GRANT: Cattle can be used effectively, but we’re going to be using mob grazing. Cattle almost shoulder to shoulder, move daily. Use electric fences, move ‘em daily and I promise you in a couple of years, we’ll turn this into black-looking, high-quality soil and productive crops.
>>GRANT: So I dug right here on purpose about four feet away from the edge of some CRP that is, you know, a few years established. You can tell by the grass how it’s spread out. It’s been established a couple of years.
>>GRANT: And let’s just go in there about the same distance, dig a hole and compare. So, we’ve had living roots in there; right? It’s been growing; it’s been covered year-round. There’s no wind erosion in there because the wind is getting sheared off above; not getting to the soil.
>>GRANT: It’s shaded down there. I’m going to bet that top part is not as dry as this was. So, we’re about a shovel off the field. We’ll go about a shovel into the CRP, dig a hole and see how it looks.
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>>GRANT: So, we’re one shovel in, approximately. Native grass well over my head. I’m six feet. That probably grew to seven feet. So, land could do it.
>>GRANT: And I’m going to be – this looks totally different. I’m going to – oh, the shovel went in so much easier. That was amazing. I thought it was going to be like concrete there.
>>GRANT: Oh, look at that, I can – I can sink my shovel here. I couldn’t even get close to sinking it out there. I’m four – I’m eight feet away. There’s exact same soil, exact same rainfall. Vegetation did the difference.
>>GRANT: Let’s pop this up. Man, it just pops up so easy. Let’s see if I can get this out of here. Oh, my goodness. What a difference. The moisture content – that’s the surface.
>>GRANT: We’ll do that again so you can see. Look at that. Right at the surface, it packs. There’s no dry zone. I’m eight feet away.
>>GRANT: Let’s do it right here. Let’s do another one so you can watch it. You’ll know nothing’s going on. This is such different soil. Look at that. Look at that. Such different soil. It’s amazing.
>>GRANT: Clean our shovel here. All right. We’re going to go right here. And I cut through the vegetation and then I can sink it so much easier. It’s amazing the difference.
>>GRANT: I’m trying to – I’m going to cut a circle. See how that’s not pulling up like the other one was? Because it’s holding together.
>>GRANT: It’s not – man, that’s just so easy to go in. And I’m going to pop this up. And real carefully, I haven’t pulled out; we haven’t done anything. I’m going to pick this up right here. There’s no dry zone.
>>GRANT: The very top of it. It doesn’t – see, I – I crumbled the other one and it just blew away. It would blow in the wind. The very top half-inch of the soil here has got so much moisture, it will make a ball.
>>GRANT: That alone should convince you. Because conserving moisture will grow bigger antlers. It will grow more turkeys. Just having that means we can grow so much more high-quality food. Just that one characteristic of soil that’s well managed versus out here where nothing’s been growing – no living plant for several months.
>>GRANT: No photosynthesis. Nothing going on. No cover. No food value. And this is why I talk about you can build soil like we have at The Proving Grounds. You can improve soil by using the plan, the process, and following very simple soil health improvement principles.
>>GRANT: This just happens to be CRP. This could have been pasture. This could have been a food plot following the same principles. We want to keep something growing as many days out of the year as possible.
>>GRANT: We want a wide diversity of plants. This could even be better soil. This is several species of grass, but it’s just grass.
>>GRANT: If we had legumes, and forbs, and brassicas in here, it would be even better. So, we want something growing as many days out of the year as possible.
>>GRANT: We want a wide diversity of plant species growing. We want grasses, legumes, broadleaves, and brassicas and we want replicates of those.
>>GRANT: So, that’s four. Maybe we’re planting 12 or 16. Three of each; four of each. We want the ground always covered with armor. It’s not bare. Like a lot of that soil out there is bare. You can’t see any soil here unless I dug it up. There’s nothing exposed. There’s no wind erosion; there’s no water erosion.
>>GRANT: Follow these really simple principles and you can improve the soil no matter where you are – farming for deer or farming for a living.
>>GRANT: Grabbing a spade and taking a walk through your property and looking at the soil and learning is a great way to enjoy Creation. But even more importantly is to take time every day, be quiet, and intentionally listen to what the Creator is saying to you and His will for your life.
>>GRANT: Thanks for watching GrowingDeer.