Soil sampling was completed on March 16th, with six samples taken in the main plots, the SW Native Grasses Field and the North Logging Trail. Although it has been a couple of weeks since sampling, shipment was not completed until April 1st. The lab should be receiving the shipment tomorrow at the latest. Hopefully we get results by the end of this week.
Once we have the soil sample results, we can determine what amendments are needed for this spring. The normal rotation for us has been lime application one year, fertilizer the next. For '13 we added fertilizer, so my expectations are that the analysis results will require a little bit of lime. That is fine by me this year, since the cost of lime application is much less than fertilizer. What is definitely more difficult with lime application is the method historically used to complete. My plots have limited access trails and the large lime spreaders from the local ag co-ops have difficulty reaching each plot. In addition, I only have a little over 3 acres of tillable. This isn't much for a co-op to mess with every other year. As a result, I have usually purchased a dump truck load, shoveled the lime into my cone spreader, and spread it with my small tractor. This is a lot of hard work, but has been successful.
The big change this year is the path I am taking with my plots. Past years have included several different types of forages to provide the variety that is often deemed so critical. For example, the '13 growing season included the following forages: brassicas, clover, chickory, buck wheat, beans and alfalfa. We also planted native grasses in the SW field to create additional depth of cover between the south edge of the property and the Main Plots. This year, I'm going to keep it simple. The Arrow Seed Full Potential (Alfalfa and Clover Mix) will be back this year and we simply over seeded to make sure we have full coverage. Instead of planting brassicas again this year, we decided to frost seed clover and chickory in the Main Plot South Section. We used the same to over seed the Main Plot North Section and the North Logging Road. The logic this year is to provide the three that seem to produce the best results for us....#1 Clover, #2 Chickory, and #3 Alfalfa. I've had the most luck with these three and they seem to required the least amount of maintenance (mowing and occasional herbicide application).
Beans are not an option for me given I don't have that many acres to handle the browsing pressure. I've learned this the hard way and unless I have an electric fence around every square foot, there will not be a single plant in the field by October. Brassicas don't seem to be a food of choice for my heard, even though I can grow huge turnips. Buckwheat was browsed, but not as much as hoped. It seems the only constant with the longest growing season is the combination of clover, chickory, and alfalfa. Thus, this is what we are going with in '14.....keeping it simple!
All of us have to follow laws and regulations that are designed for the total good. Sometimes we disagree with these laws and the direction that our elected officials take. Over the past several days, I've been following a thread on the QDMA Forum that details the firestorm of controversy currently happening in Minnesota. Thread link......http://www.qdma.com/forums/showthread.php?t=63423. This state has extremely low deer populations that are resulting in deer density levels of 2-3 per square mile! Image trying to keep interested in hunting when you are lucky to see a single deer over a 5 day period? Next to impossible.
This debate has stirred up a series of questions and thoughts within me. As a result, this blog entry may be long winded, which often happens from time-to-time. Here is your warning and opportunity to stop reading now. After a long week at work, I'm using this blog to clear my head and think about what I am doing to benefit the greater good.
Our focus is often on the respective state DNR in which we reside or own land. What if you asked yourself.....how am I managing my personal DNR? If you think about your own property, how would you grade yourself with running your department of natural resources? I basically have a mini-DNR that operates and controls the natural resources on my property. It is me...it is my trigger finger....it is my chainsaw....it is my fertilizer spreader......it is my tractor and all of the other attachments.....it is my own budget that determines what property improvements will be implemented in '14.
As I began to think about my property in this manner, I began to think about all of the resources I have and how I might be impacting not just my local eco-system, but my state, the country, and the world. It is hard to think about the extent of our actions at times since we are but a small spec on this planet. But with the emphasis on our weather and the ever changing environment we live in, it should be reflected upon. Not just for the time we are here on earth, but also for all future generations. It is easy to love your kids and grand children. But what about 5-10 generations from now? Hard to comprehend that the decisions made today impact that far into the future. We must love those generations we will not know by managing the resources we have today!
For example.....one of the biggest tactics we implement on our property to improve the deer habitat is hinge cutting trees. The fundamental question I am now asking myself is....does hinge cutting help the environment and the sequestration of Carbon Dioxide, or does it contribute to the continued rising levels of CO2? There are two thought paths to consider: 1.) Cutting of lesser desired trees will release more desired trees and increase the stem count per acre. The more trees and more density per acre will increase the natural absorption of CO2 and release more Oxygen over time. Refer to this diagram on the Carbon Cycle. 2.) Cutting of larger trees is detrimental to the sequestration of Carbon Dioxide. This raises the question if a more mature tree absorbs more CO2 than a the combined total of a large number of smaller trees located within the same square feet? Or, is it in essence a wash? Upon completing an internet search there were other scientific forums I read opinions on this. One in particular stated the only way to reduce CO2 levels in the atmosphere is to reduce the amount of fossil fuels consumed. In other words, don't drive your car. But is that entirely correct?
Although a biased stance, I believe that hinge cutting helps the environment in far too many ways to be detrimental in the overall scheme. I believe the improved habitat and the additional cover will sustain the local eco system and wildlife numbers versus a park like scenario with nothing but large mature trees. Although the canopy in a mature forest is developed, I believe the number of actual leaves growing and exchanging O2 for CO2 is much greater in a less mature woods. Since we attempt to hinge cut the trees and keep the tree surviving, the tree isn't dead and continues to grow leaves. This with the sunlight contacting the forest floor to grow more trees should drive up the carbon uptake. This goes back to simple numbers and increased stem density. I'm sure others may disagree, but I also reviewed an Agricultural and Forest Meteorology study entitled 'Comparing net ecosystem exchange of carbon dioxide between an old-growth and mature forest in the upper Midwest, USA'. This study concluded "a declining carbon uptake with stand age." (Desai, Bolstad, Cook, Davis, and Carey, 2004, p. 52). In other words, as trees become too mature the carbon uptake decreases.
So how do we change the world? Are there things we can do other than buying an electric car for transportation? I love the fact I own the property and maintain it as a wooded property. At minimum, this gives me a sense of relief and justifies why I drive 30 minutes to work each day. Right or wrong, I think my woods off sets my overall carbon foot print. Plus, I haven't seen a Tesla Dealer around West Central Indiana selling 4x4 trucks lately.
Another aspect of conservation being practiced this year is no till. My plots are being planted or actually re-seeded this year without any tillage being completed. Top soil conservation is critical to keep the nutrients available. Without soil, you can't have nutrients for the plants. We just had several inches of rain this past week. It was obvious walking the plots today, there was minimal soil erosion.
I also feel the habitat improvements on the property has increased the holding capacity of the local herd. With the increased stem count and available forages, the deer will have the shelter needed. This is especially important from a fawning cover perspective. Maybe this strategy along with better state DNR laws to increase deer herd numbers can help some of these states with huge herd number declines.
So how do I grade myself as the Hayes Dept. of DNR? I'd give myself a B- or B. I believe I am managing the resources to improve all forms of wildlife on this small 63 acres. I still have many improvements to make and would love to increase the departmental budget, but raising 4 kids and paying my taxes makes that difficult. The best part about my personal DNR is that the only lobbyist I have to keep in check is the wife. So far she is my best supporter.
Andy Hayes is a devoted husband and father of 4 kids living in West Central Indiana. Outside of his family, his passion is hunting whitetails. He does not claim to be a professional hunter, but simply wants to share what he learns during his quest to improve whitetail habitat and hunt mature bucks.