Hunters around the globe are always looking for ways to improve their hunting opportunities. Any seasoned hunter understands that a solid food source can be a hot spot for taking game during the fall hunting season. And with deer season underway, it is not too late to plant a solid food plot to get the deer coming in like obsessed maniacs.
Food plots in the south can have some environmental hurdles to overcome. Acidic soils are always at the top of the list. But a different approach to correcting the acid-base balance can make fall plots be successful. And in a much quicker way.
Acidic soils can be a food plot killer and just a tough complication with planting in any part of the world. The soil pH affects plants in two ways, including that the plant walls and roots must tolerate the acidic conditions themselves. And then the pH condition affects how plants are able to utilize macro and micro-nutrients applied in the soils.
Plants need a long list of elements to grow and thrive. But some of the most important are nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus.
These elements bind with other elements available in the air and in the soil based on the pH conditions. And when pH levels are on the acidic side, these nutrients will be unavailable to plant and are confined within insoluble forms.
But the pH can be typically raised and corrected with year-round alkaline source applications that can often take long periods of time. However, another way can aid food plotters with flying colors.
Magic on top
For most food plots, the top three inches of soil is where the magic happens. Applying liquid applications of lime to raise the pH is almost like a miracle and is just what the doctor ordered.
The liquid lime is easy to apply, and it works very quickly to alter the pH in the top layer of soil almost immediately. It’s perfect for preparing the soil to plant this month.
Blake Morris of Laurinburg, N.C. is an avid hunter. But he is also a food plot contractor serving southeastern N.C. and northeastern S.C. According to Morris, liquid applications of lime is his “go to” method for overcoming acidic plot sites. He rarely plants anything without it.
“You can apply lime at any time. But the best time to apply liquid lime is immediately right before planting,” Morris said. (843-506-9173) “It works fast and will boost the pH right in the upper horizon of the soil.”
Typically, lime is added as a pulverized or pelletized form. It is usually added in the winter and throughout the year in several split applications. And it typically takes many years to fully raise the pH. Quite often, the tonnage of solid-source lime required is a major endeavor and can be very costly. The liquid applications will not last as long as multi-year applications from solid lime sources. But it can be more than sufficient to get a solid crop of buck forage oats or iron clay peas off the ground.
Always test your soil
According to Morris, it is always good to start with a soil test to find out what the pH is and how many tons of lime are prescribed to raise the pH to acceptable levels. Yet, nearly all food plot sites in the South will be on the acidic side due to the high levels of organic material in the soil.
Often, food plot sites are within a forested region covered in pine trees. These soils will typically fall on the acidic side. A healthy application of liquid lime can be beneficial with or without a soil test.
Ease of application and quick results are benefits of using liquid lime. It can also be less expensive than solid sources.
“For comparison, 2.5 gallons of liquid lime is equivalent to a ton of pelletized lime. And 2.5 gallons of liquid lime is roughly $0.50 and one ton of lime is approximately $300 when you are buying it by the 40-pound bag. So, liquid lime applications are less expensive than pelletized or pulverized applications,” he said.
On most sites, food plotters can expect to spend less than $100 per acre for a proper lime treatment. In many cases, $50 per acre of liquid lime will be sufficient to raise the pH to healthy levels for a fantastic food plot.
As a general guide, 2.5 gallons per acre should be used when the pH is hovering around six. And when pH levels are below six, 5 gallons should be used per acre where the pH will be raised by approximately one point on the pH scale.
It is nearly impossible to spread the correct amounts of pelletized lime without the proper equipment. But liquid lime can be used with any traditional boom sprayer mounted to a tractor, ATV, or UTV. It can be sprayed without any major effort.
What exactly is liquid lime?
Liquid lime contains the chemical makeup of any other lime application. It’s calcium carbonate, but it is reduced to ultra-fine limestone particles and is mixed with a surfactant.
Solid lime sources are in much larger particles and they take longer to break down and interact with the soil. Since the particle sizes are so small in a liquid form, the results are almost instantaneous. And the purity of the liquid form of lime is also exceptionally higher.
However, if the soils are naturally acidic, they will buffer the pH back down to its natural levels and a liquid lime application will be needed on an annual basis and just before planting each year. But, this isn’t any different than what a farmer would do with solid forms of lime. The acid-base correction is needed on an annual basis regardless. And the liquid form is much more cost-efficient and 100 percent more effective than solid-form applications.
Several different brands of liquid lime are available from the local garden center or can be purchased from online sources. Cal Flo Limestone and PlotStart are two of the commercial versions available for the general public. These can be purchased locally or online at a variety of locations.
Easy to apply
The use of liquid lime isn’t exactly a new thing, but it will revolutionize your food plot growing abilities. Finally, food plotters can spread fertilizer after planting and know the plants will be able to utilize the nutrients to maximize growth.
In the South, most food plot sites are on the acidic side of the scale. And acidic conditions are nearly always something food plotters will have to deal with. Morris’s liquid application method is really the cat’s meow for planting food plots. Anybody with a tank sprayer mounted to an ATV, UTV, or tractor can apply liquid lime to change the outcome of their food plots.
Morris plants and builds food plots for landowners in several counties in NC and SC. He can assist landowners with their own efforts or provide turnkey services to improve the food availability on your hunting property. For more information or for food plot contracting, contact Blake Morris at (843) 506-9173.