A month has past since we first sprayed the GroPal Foliar Sea Mineral onto half of our WI Clover and Chickory plot. As you recall, our initial purpose of this little experiment was to determine 1.) Do deer prefer GroPal during browsing? 2.) Will GroPal improve plant life and increase growth? Today we tried to answer the second goal by measuring plant growth between the GroPal and Non GroPal Clover and Chickory. You will have to excuse the camera work as I was filming alone today. My camera crew was busy cutting the grass at home and cleaning up around the yard. Now that school is in session, they must do this on weekends.
The growth results are rather interesting. There was a visible height difference within the utilization cages. The GroPal plants were roughly 2" taller than the plants not sprayed with GroPal. For the Clover, this was even more evident when we pulled samples and laid them out on the plywood we had staged in the field. I saw a visible difference in the health of the plants. They were greener and fresher looking than the non GroPal plants. We have not had any rain for a few days, so it is beginning to get a little dry. I can't say for certain that the GroPal plants had more moisture, but they just appeared to be healthier overall.
My application of GroPal is in addition to the normal soil amendments applied each spring. I have posted my soil sampling practices previously on this blog, so hopefully there are no more concerns about neglect of basic soil management practices as a part of this process.
I'm sure these results and this particular blog will resurface the debates and critical feedback regarding this experiment. Again, I am not sponsored by GroPal and I am only doing this to share what I have learned from this process. Please do not buy GroPal or any other product based solely on my personal results. Make an informed purchase and test it yourself. You may get different results. As far as my opinion, GroPal makes a difference. I think it can increase the tonnage in my plots, which could be huge once the snow starts flying. A couple of inches of growth might provide the carrying capacity my herd needs through late January and February.
Good luck with your plots, and I appreciate the time you have taken to review this blog and the attached video and photos below. Like us on Facebook and keep checking back for new entries.
Given some of the online conversations I have participated in, it has become clear to me that I haven't discussed the importance of soil testing and the application of amendments as required. Although it is the middle of the summer and my plots are growing well, I thought this would be a good time to discuss soil tests. I want to illustrate the fact I follow a diligent process to ensure good soils for growing forage.
I usually take my samples in February or early March. Although the weather often does not cooperate, there are ways to take the samples in the dead of winter. Once the samples are dried out, I package them up and submit to a certified lab. This year I used A&L Great Lakes Laboratories for the first time. I was please with how they do business (no they are not a sponsor). Attached are screen shots of my sample results from this year and the recommended fertilizer and micronutrients to be applied.
I have also attached an Excel Spreadsheet that shows the annual testing results and the graphs to help understand the performance of my soils. As you can see, the work in '12 helped improve the soils. The graphs show an up swing in all of the major categories: ph, N, K, and P. You can bank soil amendments as I did in '12. This reduced the amount of fertilizer and lime needed for planting this year. No lime was needed based on the results. The fertilizer applied was 200# per acre of DAP and 800# of Potash. For the micronutrients, I was not successful in finding a local agronomy plant that could provide these when needed. Given it was the middle of the spring and the farmers are bigger customers, I was happy I could get a wagon of DAP and Potash. Thus, the reason I tried the GroPal spray foliar. I wanted to improve the micronutrients.
If you are reading this, my guess is that you have already heard the news about how important soil testing is to a food plot program or any agricultural field. I can't express how important these results are to me each year. I almost get as excited about receiving my soil analysis results as pulling trail camera cards. It marks the beginning of a new season that eventually leads to October 1st. If you are not taking soil samples regularly, you are missing the boat. Keep reading up on this topic and start your program next winter. Below is a good report that may help.
Well it is time to provide an update on the GroPal Experiment as initiated a couple of weeks ago. Refer to the original blog at http://www.allthingswhitetail.com/1/post/2013/07/gropal-appliednow-we-wait.html.
Based on the trail camera photos, I counted a hit as a deer's head in the downward or feeding position. I used the flags to delineate between the GroPal sprayed side of the field (left side of the photos) vs. the No GroPal side on the right side. I did not post every picture showing a hit as that would be 75 photos. However, I included a good sample so you could get an idea of what I am seeing.
Error corrections that I am admitting to upfront before someone calls them out:
1. The camera is not completely centered along the line between the GroPal sprayed side and the No GroPal.
2. The date stamp on the camera is apparently off by 3 days. The original blog was on July 14th. The first photos are stamped July 11th.
3. The surveying flags did not work as well as I had hoped and do not show up in the IR photos. As a result, I drew lines and pasted on the photos where the flags were located.
At this point, it is somewhat early but interesting how the results are shaping up. In the first week, there were only 4 hits on GroPal vs. 14 hits on the No GroPal side. Week two was a completely different story. The GroPal side had 37 total hits vs. only 20 on the No GroPal side. GroPal was almost double the hits for Week 2. This brings the two week total to GroPal - 41 and No GroPal 34. Why the change the second week? Did it take a week for the GroPal to impact the growth or taste of the plants where the deer noticed a difference? Or, is this just a coincidence and the deer just happened to feed on the left side more?
I realize that I need more sample data at this point in the experiment, but I think the photos are interesting. If you look at some of the time stamps, it appears to me that the deer seemed to feed longer on the GroPal side than the No GroPal side. In other words, I had multiple shots of deer feeding on the GroPal side minute by minute. On the No GroPal side, multiple back to back photos were less evident. This could mean that the deer like the GroPal sprayed forage better or find it more palatable.
I think it is too soon to tell, but at some point I will form an opinion as to the effectiveness of this product on deer preference based on the photographic evidence. Some will poke holes in every aspect of what I am doing and claim this is "snake oil". I post this blog to share what I have learned. It is up to each individual to determine for themselves what the results of this study may be. I don't care if you buy GroPal or not. If I buy it again, that is my personal choice as I am sure there are products others buy that I believe are a waste of money. We should not forget that this is the simple economic foundation this country was based on........you have a free choice to buy what you want. Supply and Demand. That is the beauty of living in the United States of America.
The other aspect of the experiment has not yet been evaluated. That is the increased growth comparison between the utilization cages. I forgot to take a tape measure with me the other day so this will be done at the next visit. Keep checking the blog as there is more to come.
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.