Soil nutrition/pH is probably the easiest soil attribute to manipulate yet it is often overlooked. Soil that has previously been in forest production can be very acidic. While this acidity is not a direct nutrient it does directly affect the uptake of nutrients to the plant. Different plants have optimal ranges in soil pH, however, most need a soil pH between 6.2-7.0 on a 0-14 scale. The lower numbers indicate higher acidity and higher numbers being basic or less acidic.
In order to determine the available nutrients and pH of a wildlife food plot, a soil sample should be taken. The soil sample needs to be taken within 4-6 inches of the surface (in the root zone). Organic material, such as roots, leaves, stems, etc. should to be removed. Small samples should be randomly taken across the food plot and placed into a clean bucket. The soil in the bucket should then be mixed well and a sample from that will go into the cardboard soil sample box provided by your local Agricultural Extension Agent. Soil samples should be taken separately for each individual food plot. Once the test is complete you will receive a report of the nutrients in the soil and the recommendations for amending the soil based on the crop you are planning on planting.
The North Carolina Department of Agriculture provides a soil testing service for free April- November. There is a fee of $4/sample if given in the peak season (December - March).It is recommended these soil samples be taken 4-6 months before planting, so now is the right time to prepare for the fall.
More on obtaining soil samples can be viewed on the following link, Fertilizing Wildlife Food Plots.
If you need more information about creating wildlife plots or other forest management advice: email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call the office at 336-838-5766.