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Food Plot Tips
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Taking A Soil Sample
It is very important to have your soil pH tested and if necessary, develop a multi-year plan for amending and conditioning your food plot soil. At Shamel Milling, we provide this service for free!
1. You will need a different sample for each food plot area. A separate test should be performed when soil changes color or consistency.
2. Each sample should be a made up of three or more samplings from the same food lot area.
3. Dig just below the sod layer and take a clump of soil that does not contain sod, rock or other debris. Repeat several times in each location with your sample area; mix the samples together to get a good representation of the soil in the food plot area.
4. Bring us one soil sample for each food plot area. If you have an idea of what you might want to plant in that plot or what you planted previously, please write that down and put that information with the soil sample.
Soil pH & Fertilizer
In order to grow strong and healthy… plants need food! The main method of providing food to your plants is achieved by adding fertilizer to the soil. Soil pH regulates how much of the food the plants can eat by locking up the food in a strong chemical bond when the pH is low (below 6) or when the pH is high (above 8). Soil pH is extremely important since the pH of the soil helps determine if the plants can metabolize the fertilizer in the soil and therefore determines if the plants can grow.
Many people continue to fertilize a poorly performing food plot by simply adding more fertilizer! Actually what is needed is to release the food by solving the pH problem. Over time, low pH problems can be resolved by adding 2,000 lbs of lime per acre, which will raise the pH one point. Unfortunately lime does not immediately fix low pH problems. It often takes up to 6 months to achieve its full effect. High pH problems are not very common but can be corrected by adding Sulfates to the soil.
It is important to read the planting instructions for each seed mixture to find the fertilizer recommendations and the recommended pH levels for each seed mix.
Choosing Seeds for Your Food Plot
In order to determine the proper mixture for the food plot, it is important to ask yourself the following questions:
1. Do I want to plant each year or every 3 years?
2. What equipment do I have to disc the soil?
3. Am I more interested in attraction or nutrition?
4. When can I plant a food plot and is that a good time to plant?
5. Can I maintain a perennial food plot or should I replant every year?
Knowing How Deep to Plant Your Seeds
Many times seeds do not get the opportunity to grow because they are planted too deep. It is very important to read the planting instructions on the back of all packages to determine the proper planting depth for your seed mixture. It is easy to plant too deep unintentionally, since small seeds tend to work their way deep into loose soil. Once small seeds fall deep into the soil, they cannot germinate. This can be prevented by
lightly packing your soil before planting using a culti-packer or by running over the plot with an ATV. Always pack the seed bed after discing and before planting. Poorly disced seed beds with large clumps of dirt should still be packed and smoothed before planting. This will reduce the natural tendency of the small seeds to move deeper into the soil.
Soil moisture is vital to the plants being able to establish themselves. The soil should be moist when planting, with a reasonable expectation of future rainfall. If adequate moisture is not available for an extended period after planting, the plot may fail to establish properly.
This is an excellent method of Spring planting. When frost seeding, follow normal seed coverage recommendations and broadcast the seed as the frost begins to thaw.
Making Your Food Plot as Drought Resistant as Possible
The deeper you disc the soil before rainfall, the more moisture the ground will store for the growing season, and the more drought tolerant the food plot will be. Discing the soil before planting will also cause dormant weed seed to sprout, which will allow you to disc the weeds under or spray them with weed killer before planting. Either way, you will reduce weed competition for the valuable water and nutrients that your forage plants need.
Tips to Establish Spring & Summer Food Plots
1. Plant after Spring green-up has started…don’t let your food plot be the only green thing for miles! By planting while native plants are at the height of sweetness during the natural Spring green-up season, you will reduce the feeding pressure while the food plot is young.
2. Plant multiple food plots at the same time or plant large areas. By doing this you will decrease the feeding pressure on all of the food plots and increase the success of your Summer plots.
3. Spraying the edges of the food plot with deer repellents that make plants taste bad. Apply to the edges of the food plot and the native forage that surrounds the plot.
4. Spring & Summer food plots do not have to be placed deep in the woods where you intend to hunt during the Fall, create food plots in areas that may already have low fencing or human activity that will reduce early deer browsing until the forage is tall and the deer are more camouflaged.
Game Bird Treat
If you have hunted game birds for any length of time you know that once a field of grains are cut or harvested the birds flock in to consume the left over feast. Once the Summer is over and your attention turns to attracting game birds you will find most of them will have already spotted your plot. To increase the usage and the available grain on the ground, cut lanes through the plot to produce an easily hunted field. Consider cutting new lanes or portions of the plot over several weeks so that fresh grain will be available all season and none will be wasted.
Weed & Grass Management in the Food Plot
Weed and Grass Management in the Food Plot
(Information Provided By the Whitetail Institute)
Weed and grass problems actually lie deep within the soil. Over many years, billions of weed and grass seeds have been deposited and can sit dormant until the day the soil is tilled and they move close to the surface. As the seed moves to the surface, the combination of oxygen, temperature and moisture causes the weed and grass seeds to germinate. It is only a matter of time until the grasses and weeds are aggressively competing with the crops.
Weeds and grasses can cause many problems in a field. First, they compete with desired forages in the food plot taking moisture and nutrients from the soil, which are the life-blood of food plot forages. When moisture and nutrients are stolen by weeds and grasses, huge holes in the food plot can develop. If left unchecked, the weeds and grasses can eventually take over the entire plot. This will require replanting earlier than anticipated, which can be quite expensive. There is not only the cost of the seed but also the lime, fertilizer, fuel and time involved in replanting.
No doubt, weeds and grasses can be costly, frustrating and depressing. Mowing can often rectify the problem, but other times that is not enough.
ATV Sprayer Calibration
(Information Provided By the Whitetail Institute)
Precise herbicide application is now possible for managers of food plots with the widespread availability of ATV-mounted boom sprayers. Boom sprayers have a series of nozzle tips mounted horizontally along a rigid boom. This allows a swath from 6 to 12 ft. wide to be treated in one pass. ATV sprayers have a chemical resistant plastic tank large enough to hold 15 to 25 gallons of spray solution and an electronic pump that generates pressure, propelling the spray through a series of nozzle tips. These features allow the manager of food plots to uniformly treat a large area with herbicides, using the ATV as the source of horsepower. There are many different modifications that can be made during set-up depending on the sprayer’s intended use. For most herbicide applications in food plots, the set-up provided by the sprayer manufacturer is sufficient.
Spray nozzle tips are precisely machined devices that help regulate spray flow and disperse the spray into uniform sized droplets in useful patterns (fan-shaped, hollow cone, solid cone, stream, etc.). Nozzle tips vary in materials from which they are made; nylon, brass, stainless steel, and ceramic. Nylon is the most cost-effective nozzle tip material. Nozzle tips are an expendable item and will need to be periodically replaced due to wear.
Consider using either flood-jet or flat-fan nozzle tips with an ATV boom sprayer. Flood-jet tips produce a fairly wide spray pattern of large, coarse droplets. Flood-jet tips are best for soil applied herbicides since they are not overly prone to being clogged due to their large orifice. The large droplet size also minimizes spray drift. However, flood-jet tips are not recommended for foliar-applied herbicides since they produce a coarse pattern with few droplets and may not provide adequate coverage on emerged weeds. Flood-jet tips and their large orifice consume large volumes of water, requiring frequent refilling – a critical factor for large food plots or sites where clean spray water is not available.
The other choice for a nozzle tip is one that produces a flat-fan. These tips offer the advantage of producing fine spray droplets of a uniform size, usually with lower spray volumes than flood-jet tips. A finer pattern gives better spray coverage of weeds foliage, but is more prone to being clogged. The lower spray volume produced by a flat-fan tip allows a tank of herbicide mixture to be sprayed to a larger area than with flood-jet tips.
Regardless of the nozzle tips chosen, it is highly recommended to use in-line strainers for each nozzle tip. These will filter particulate matter and prevent clogging. The strainer itself can become clogged, but it is far easier to clean a strainer than a spray tip. The fragile nozzle tip orifice can be easily marred by prying out debris with a pocketknife or a piece of wire.
A good combination are nylon flat-fan tips used with slotted strainers. They are the best compromise of cost, versatility, and performance. There are several major manufacturers of sprayer components for agricultural use and three of the most common are Spraying Systems, Delavan, and Hypro. These companies have excellent web sites, high
quality brochures on sprayer use, downloadable technical sheets, and customer service. They can offer qualified advice on spray-tip selection and provide a list of local dealers.
Another desirable modification is a functional pressure gauge. The electronic pump on an ATV sprayer generates and maintains steady pressure. Pump generated pressure is the means by which the herbicide solution is propelled through the nozzle tips. Some sprayers have pumps with adjustable pressure and some have fixed pressure. A functional gauge makes it possible to monitor pressure during operation. Widely fluctuating spray pressure is often a symptom of a sprayer malfunction that affects precision and accuracy.
Pressure gauges are notoriously fragile and frequently become inoperable. Fortunately, replacements are readily available at industrial gas suppliers and agricultural equipment dealerships.
Arrangement of Spray Nozzles & Spray Boom Height
The number of spray tips, spacing on the boom, and angle of alignment are determined by the nozzle type and height of the boom. Farmers have sprayers with wide adjustments in boom height and nozzle spacing, giving them many options. Some ATV sprayers have a fixed boom height, while others have a limited amount of adjustment. It is important to mount and secure the sprayer on the ATV that you actually intend to use for spraying, since boom height on ATV mounted sprayers may differ according to suspension, tire size, and overall height. Refer to the published data from spray tip manufacturers for correct boom height and nozzle spacing.
Ground speed affects calibration; faster ground speed will reduce the sprayer output (gallons of spray per acre), while slower ground speed will increase sprayer output. A reasonable ground speed for spraying is 2 to 4 miles per hour. The keys are knowing the ground speed and maintaining the ground speed. Choose a gear, range, and tachometer reading (if available) to calculate ground speed. At these engine settings, determine the time needed to travel a set distance. From that, calculate their speed in miles per hour. Refer to Table 1. This is a simple listing of the times needed to travel 50 and 100 ft. and the corresponding speed expressed as miles per hour. If an ATV does not have
a tachometer, choose a gear and throttle setting that can be replicated and maintained, calculate the ground speed, then calibrate and operate the sprayer at those settings.
An often-overlooked factor is the need to calculate the speed of the ATV in soil conditions similar to those where the sprayer will be used. Tires slip in loose soil. With the same gear and throttle setting, ground speed on hard pavement will differ from ground speed on loose soil and this difference could cause a large calibration error, altering herbicide rate.
The sprayer must be tightly secured to the rear cargo rack on the ATV. A filled ATV sprayer can weigh as much as 200 pounds, and that mass can easily bounce free during use. The additional weight of a fully loaded sprayer may alter the handling and stability of the ATV.
When solving problems in mathematics, there are often several approaches to get the correct answer. This is true with sprayer calibration. The method presented here is described in many publications. There are other proven methods that also work. All methods provide the same answer – a sprayer calibration value expressed in gallons per
acre. This refers to the amount of spray mixture needed to spray one acre. A reasonable sprayer output is 15 to 30 gallons per acre. The formula used to calibrate a broadcast sprayer is:
GPA = (GPM*5940)/(speed*nozzle spacing)
The definitions of terms in this equation are:
GPA – Sprayer output in gallons/A.
GPM – Average flow rate per nozzle in the spray boom in gallons/min.
5940 – Mathematical constant that is the result of many unit conversion factors.
Speed – Calculated ground speed of the ATV in miles/hour.
Spacing – Spacing of nozzle tips along the spray boom expressed in inches
Step 1. A device to accurately measure water in fluid ounces (or milliliters) is needed. For safety reasons, dedicate this measuring device exclusively for sprayer use. Several containers are needed to collect spray output from each nozzle tip. A watch with a stopwatch feature is needed to accurately measure time in seconds. Finally, a handheld calculator is needed for the mathematical computations.
Step 2. Assemble and mount the sprayer to the ATV. Fill the spray tank with water alone (no herbicides). With the ATV stationary, turn on the sprayer and adjust the pressure to the desired level, if pressure adjustments are possible. Run the sprayer for a minute or so to make sure that spray is being discharged from all tips and there are no leaks in the lines and couplings. Use the cups to collect the spray from each nozzle tip along the sprayer boom for one minute. Measure the output volume from each nozzle tip and calculate the average output across all nozzle tips. Convert the average output to gallons/minute using either of the following conversion factors:
(fl. oz./min)/128 = gal./min.
(ml/min.)/3785 = gal./min.
(Other useful conversion factors are listed in Table 2.)
Step 3. Substitute the appropriate terms into the calibration equation. It is essential that each term in the equation be in the correct units. GPM must be in gallons/minute. Speed must be in miles/hour. Nozzle spacing must be inches. Using the wrong units will result in gross errors in calibration.
Step 4. Repeating the calibration procedure and all computations.
A sprayer is assembled and mounted on an ATV. A comfortable and repeatable throttle setting has been determined and with those settings, the ground speed of the ATV was found to be 3 miles/hour. The sprayer is configured with seven TeeJet 8002 flat fan nozzle tips spaced 19 inches apart along the boom. The sprayer pump does not have adjustable pressure, so we use whatever pressure the pump generates. With the spray tank filled with water and pump operational, we run the sprayer for one minute and collect the following volumes from each nozzle:
Notice the output collected from Nozzle 5. Compared to the other sprayer tips, something is obviously wrong. The nozzle assembly (nozzle tip, strainer, and nozzle body) is disassembled and a piece of metal filing is removed from the nozzle tip. The process is repeated and gives the following results:
The output from all nozzle tips is now similar, less than 10% variation among all seven tips. This is acceptable. The next step is to calculate a simple average output per nozzle tip on the sprayer boom.
(26 + 25 + 25 + 27 + 26 + 27 + 25)/7 = 25.86 fl. oz./min.
Convert the output from fl. oz./min. to gal./min.
(25.86 fl. oz./min.)/(128 fl. oz./gal.) = 0.2020 gal./min.
(This answer is one of the critical terms in the calibration equation.)
Refer back to the original calibration equation and begin substituting.
GPA = (GPM*5940)/(speed*spacing)
GPA = (0.2020*5940)/(3*19)
GPA = 1200/57
GPA = 21 gal./A
The sprayer in this example is now calibrated. It will apply 21 gallons of mixed spray uniformly over one acre.
|Nozzle 1||Nozzle 2||Nozzle 3||Nozzle 4||Nozzle 5||Nozzle 6||Nozzle 7|
|27 fl.oz.||25 fl.oz.||26 fl.oz.||26 fl.oz.||10 fl.oz.||25 fl.oz.||26 fl.oz.|
——(fluid ounces of spray water collected from each nozzle for one minute)—–
|Nozzle 1||Nozzle 2||Nozzle 3||Nozzle 4||Nozzle 5||Nozzle 6||Nozzle 7|
|26 fl.oz.||25 fl.oz.||25 fl.oz.||27 fl.oz.||26 fl.oz.||27 fl.oz.||25 fl.oz.|
——(fluid ounces of spray water collected from each nozzle for one minute)—–
Dilution and mixing. Carefully read the herbicide label, which in this context refers to the detailed instructions provided with the herbicide. The label also provides information on protective clothing when applying the herbicide. Protective clothing may be chemical resistant coveralls, boots, gloves, and safety glasses. Pay close attention to all safety statements, for your safety as well as the safety of others.
The first step is to estimate or measure the size of the area treated, which will determine the volume of spray mixture needed to treat the area. Unless you have a knack for estimating area, simply measure or step-off the rough dimensions and calculate the estimated area in ft2, which can then be easily converted to acres (1 acre = 43,560 ft2). As a reference, the area of a football field is 1.3 A. Once the size of the treated area is determined, use the sprayer calibration value (gal./A) calculated earlier. Use the calibration value and the area to be treated to determine the amount of spray mixture needed for the task.
(acres treated) * (gal./acre) = gal. of spray mixture
Depending on the calibration, area to be treated, and size of the spray tank, the task may require a partial tank or multiple filling to treat the site. Add the calculated amount of clean water to the spray tank.
A food plot measures out to be approximately 0.8 A. You calibrated the ATV sprayer to spray 21 gal./A. and the tank has a capacity of 20 gal. The volume of spray water needed to treat the food plot is: (21 gal./A * 0.8 A =16.8 gal.). Add 16.8 gal. of clean water to the spray tank.
The next step is to calculate the amount of herbicide necessary for the area treated. The appropriate rate(dosage) is found on herbicide label in the text section for the crop and weeds to be treated. Herbicide rates vary according crop, weed, geographic region, soil type, and etc. Always refer to the label to make sure you are using the herbicide correctly. The herbicide rate will usually be expressed in volume/A or weight/A, depending on herbicide formulation (liquid or dry commercial product). Using the published rate and area treated by the volume of spray water in the tank, the amount of herbicide to add to the spray tank can be calculated using the following equation:
(herbicide rate/acre) * (acres treated) = amount of herbicide to add to spray tank
Vantage is needed to control crabgrass in a planting of Whitetail Imperial perennial clover. The label lists the Vantage rate at 1.5 pt./A. The food plot is 0.8 A. The amount of Vantage to add to the 16.8 gal of water in the spray tank is:(1.5 pt./A * 0.8 A = 1.2 pt.).
Once the herbicides and adjuvants are added to the spray tank, the contents of the tank need to be mixed. Some sprayers have bypass agitation, which is a means by which some of the herbicide mixture is circulated by the pump from the bottom of the tank to the top. This is adequate to keep herbicides mixed during operation, but not enough to outright mix spray tank components. Simply stir the contents of the spray tank with a piece of lumber or a stout stick.
Forages for wildlife are either broadcast seeded or drilled like small grains, leaving few visual reference points for spraying. Managers of food plots have three options to keep track of where they have sprayed. One technique is to measure and mark the width of the spray swath across the field using surveyor flags. Simply drive and spray between flags across the field. Another technique is to use a dye specially formulated for use in herbicide sprays. In this example, the blue spray mixture is deposited on plant foliage, marking the area already treated. The last and least desirable technique is to do nothing and guess at the previous spray swath using the tire tracks from the previous pass.
Make every effort to ensure that you avoid grossly over-estimating the amount of mixed herbicide needed to complete the task. Given a choice, it is better to under-estimate than over-estimate the amount of mixed herbicide. This prevents the problem of disposal of extra mixed herbicide. Mixed herbicide needs to be sprayed in an appropriate manner. Simply dumping the leftover contents of a spray tank is wasteful and environmentally irresponsible.
Clean-Up & Storage
Sprayer clean-up is an important maintenance step for the longevity of the ATV sprayer, since some pesticides are corrosive or foul the sprayer with herbicidal sludge. In addition, thoroughly cleaning the spray tank will help prevent contamination that may injure sensitive crops the next time the sprayer is used. This is particularly important with herbicides like Roundup and 2,4-DB. The standard protocol is to triple rinse the tank with clean water, thoroughly rinse the outside of the sprayer, and use a final rinse with an ammonia solution. The sprayer should be operated for a few minutes to allow the ammonia solution to circulate and cleanse the lines and spray tips. It is a good idea to periodically remove and clean all spray tips and screens. If there is any doubt about the sprayer clean-up procedure, refer to the herbicide label for instructions.
Herbicide storage is an often-overlooked consideration. Avoid the temptation to stockpile herbicides. Buy the absolute minimum amount to do the job. The reason is obvious – safety to people and the environment. Eliminate the storage issue by not having any to store when you are finished with the task. Refer to the herbicide label for storage information. Always store herbicides in the original container.
Table 1. Useful conversions.
1 lb. = 16 oz.
1 lb. = 454 g
1 A = 43,560 ft^2
1 mile^2 = 640 A
1 mile = 5,280 ft.
1 mile = 1,760 yds.
1 gal. = 4 qts.
1 gal. = 8 pts.
1 gal. = 128 fl. oz.
1 gal. = 3785 ml
1 Tbs. = 2 fl. oz.
1 Tbs. = 3 tsp.
Table 2. Times needed to travel test distances to achieve ground speeds in miles per hour.(1)
Test A – 2 mph
Test B – 3 mph
Test C – 4 mph
Test Distance of 50 ft.:
Test A – 17 sec.
Test B – 11 sec.
Test C – 8 sec.
Test Distance of 100 ft.:
Test A – 34 sec.
Test B – 23 sec.
Test C – 17 sec.
(1).Measure speed under soil conditions similar to those where the sprayer will be used.
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