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First attempt at Semisane's no-till food plot method

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First attempt at Semisane's no-till food plot method

Old 05-20-2017, 08:52 PM
  #1  
Typical Buck
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Default First attempt at Semisane's no-till food plot method

Last fall while attempting to plant a food plot, I ended up breaking our disk while trying to get it across one of the creek crossings on our farm. It's been increasingly difficult to get heavy equipment to any of my plots, so this year I decided to try no-till. Semisane utilizes a pretty good method to establish food plots without tillage, so I used his ideas for inspiration. Because I feel this topic has potential importance for other food plotters, I want to document my efforts here for all to see.

Since the clover has pretty much died out, I wanted to try out a few annuals for the first time in a while. Since it's been a few years, I chose one of my favorite summer annual crops: Lablab. For those who don't know about it, lablab is a vigorous, vining cowpea that's drought tolerant, nutritious, and a heavy forage producer. The best part about it, though, is that no matter what kind of weeds you might have come up in your plot, lablab will climb up them and choke them out. Even seven foot tall johnsongrass won't hurt it. Last weekend, I placed an order for a 20 pound bag, and it arrived a few days ago:



Lablab grows best alongside other tall plants that provide a structure for the vines to grow on. Luckily, I have two gallon size bags of mammoth sunflower seeds from a garden project a few years back. They may not be as viable as fresh seed, but I figured it couldn't hurt to try them out.

In addition to the seed, I went to a local Co-op to pick up 1,000 pounds of pelletized lime and 200 pounds of 15-15-15 fertilizer.



I had hoped to rent a spreader, but none of the Co-ops I called had any small spreaders. I ended up buying a small, 200 pound capacity spreader. It's a little small for our tractor, but it'll do.

Step 1: Spraying the plot

Last week, we sprayed the existing weeds and grass with 2,4-D. Unlike previous food plot preparation attempts, I didn't mow down anything before spraying. After a few days, everything growing in the plot was either dead or dying.



Step 2: Sowing the seed.

I quickly mixed together the lablab and sunflower seed. With rainclouds passing occasionally overhead, I set out on foot to broadcast the seed with a handheld spreader. I wanted to spread the seed first so that all the future passes we would have to make with a tractor would help push the seeds into the untilled soil.

Step 3: Liming



My dad arrived to help out as soon as I finished spreading the seed. It took us several passes with the little spreader to apply all the lime, but we got it done, even in spite of the rain.

I'd like to point out that we didn't plant the whole plot. There's a moderate downward slope near the entrance of the field that we always leave untouched due to practicality. I figured I'd leave the deer a little cover.



Aren't the dogs helpful?

Due to the grass, I couldn't usually see the seeds on the ground. There were a few bare spots, though, where the seeds were clearly visible:



Step 4: Fertilizing



After spreading the lime, we did the same thing with the fertilizer. You can see our pile of trash once we emptied all the bags.

Step 5: Mowing



It was only after spraying the field, letting the grass die, and then sowing the seed that I mowed the plot. While this seems like a strange way of doing this, there's a valid reason for it. Since the field wasn't disked, the ground is pretty hard. Consequently, seed doesn't get worked into the ground that well, and seed that just sits on the surface isn't in the best position to sprout and grow. Using this method, the seed ends up on the ground covered by a layer of dead plant material. While they may not be in the ground, they're at least pretty well covered by a layer that will retain moisture. Whether this works as well as planting in tilled ground is what I'm hoping to find out.

Step 6: Cultipacking



The last step was to cultipack the field to ensure the seed was in good contact with the soil, and that the plant material was all firmly on the ground.





I flew my drone over the field later this afternoon to take an aerial photo as a reference. Even if these storms in the forecast render the plot inaccessible, I can still see how well the plot is doing.



Just gotta hope for a good rain, and then see what happens.
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Old 05-20-2017, 08:53 PM
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Oh, funny story.

This morning, while getting everything ready to take down to the plot, I toyed with the notion of taking my Fireball Encore just in case a coyote showed up, as they occasionally tend to do when we're doing work with the tractor. However, I decided against it, since it's just extra weight and bulk I'd have to carry around.

Guess what showed up in the plot not even 50 yards away?

I'm still kicking myself for not bringing my pistol.

Last edited by TN Lone Wolf; 05-20-2017 at 09:16 PM. Reason: Typo
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Old 05-20-2017, 09:24 PM
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Good report Lone Wolf. Looking forward to updates.
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Old 05-24-2017, 08:19 AM
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Finally got a decent amount of rain this morning, with more in the forecast this weekend.
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Old 05-24-2017, 09:42 AM
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Time for lift off.
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Old 05-26-2017, 02:10 AM
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It's a good write up. Looking forward to see how it does. Also curious how this would work for the guy that doesn't have any equipment. Everything you did other than the cultipacking could be done with hand tools. It would be more work obviously, but for the people with no equipment it would be an option.
-Jake
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Old 05-26-2017, 07:04 AM
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I'm really curious also, been my experience seeds germinate just fine under fresh compost, but many of the seedlings die off, except for the weeds. Maybe Lab Lab will be more successful?

Most seed is treated to resist fungus, which seems a likely cause for the seedlings to die. A pretty hostile environment under the mulch.

Speaking of doing it by hand, I've had good luck with a spade. I turn the soil over roots up, then the next spade full into the the hole I just made and repeat (a thousand times . A lot easier to do a day or two after a rain. Then I seed and lightly drag to cover the seeds, a small section of chain link fence and a rope works. I've put out many, thousand square foot, corn plots this way. This method is for young backs and strong hearts. The young plants seem to tolerate the fresh mulch on the roots, better than in contact with the top.

Let us know how it works out, I'd like to try the same if successful.
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Old 05-26-2017, 07:41 AM
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Cant wait to see your progress, looks good and appreciate the write up you did with pics. Easy to follow, heres to your plot and upcoming season.
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Old 05-27-2017, 03:00 PM
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I woke up this morning to a torrential downpour, so lack of soil moisture should no longer be an issue.

So far, not much has come up yet. However, as I got to looking, there were a few little lablab plants coming up:


What was interesting was that of all the plants I saw, they were at two distinct stages of development. There were some, like the one above, that clearly began germinating soon after we planted the field. They had already deployed their first true leaves. The other lablab plants looked like this:


They haven't quite put out their first true leaves yet. It seems like these had begun germinating after Wednesday's rain. Since neither last weekend's nor Wednesday's rain was that heavy, I'm hoping today's downpour will be enough to get the rest of the seeds growing.

I didn't see any sunflowers, but they usually take a longer to germinate.
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Old 06-09-2017, 08:44 AM
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I have done something similar before. The larger the seed, the better the germination rate. I have actually had fair success with soybeans - but not nearly as good as on prepared ground - and beans are pretty expensive for OK success. Sunflowers - no success at all. Wheat - again, ok. Millet - poor. It is also necessary to get some timely rains not long after planting.
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