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Soil Testing Improves Wildlife Openings

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For every successful garden or wildlife food plot you see, brimming with ripe tomatoes for people or clover for deer and wild turkeys, it's a good bet, the success part started with evaluating the soil.

Best of all, the test is simple and inexpensive. Soil sample kits from your county extension office or the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) office are usually available for about $5.

Not only is soil testing inexpensive, it can give you a precise prescription for the amount of lime and fertilizer necessary for good plant growth. Lime allows the soil to reach the necessary pH level needed for your specific planting, and the timing of any lime application is critical. Liming is generally done at least one month before you plant so the soil's pH level has time to change and reach the proper level. If your soil is not at the correct pH level when you start planting, your plants will not grow well, even with adequate fertilizer.

The soil sampling process itself is simple. To collect samples, follow these steps:

  1. Take your samples in the fall.

  2. Fill out the sheet that comes with the kit.

  3. Take a sample of the soil at plow depth, or at least six inches. You want to take at least five samples of soil for each five acres of field.

  4. Mix the five samples together and let them dry before sending them.

  5. Place one cup of dry soil in the provided container or a one-pint plastic bag.

  6. Label the bag with your name and number that references the field you took the sample from.

  7. Record the sample location on an aerial photo or sketch of the farm, and keep for your reference. (NWTF's CD-ROM, Get in the Game, has a great mapping program you can use to do this.)

  8. Make sure the soil information sheet is placed in a separate first-class envelope attached to the sample. You should ship the sample per instructions from your county agent.

Avoid sampling areas near fences, eroded knolls, lime, sludge or manure piles, dead furrows or back furrows, animal droppings, low spots and rows where fertilizer has been banded. In general, do not sample any area of a field that varies widely from the rest of the field in color, fertility, slope, texture (sandy, clayey, etc.), drainage or productivity. Sample the atypical area separately if it is large enough to receive lime or fertilizer treatments differing from the rest of the field.

Using the proper amounts of lime and fertilizer will improve plant growth and your opening or food plot's benefit to wildlife.

Get in the Game, the NWTF's guide to attracting wildlife to your land, is now available on CD for $9.99 and is full of tips and tools to help you get the most out of managing your land. More planting information is also available through the National Wild Turkey Federation's Project HELP (Habitat Enhancement Land Program), by calling (800) THE-NWTF or click here.


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