Release Process Food Plots w/ Dr. Grant Woods

Show Notes

On this week's episode of the Pennsylvania Woodsman, Mitch was privileged to speak with Dr. Grant Woods from Growing Deer TV.  If you've followed along with Dr. Woods for any length of time, you know how dedicated he has been to producing educational content through his channel.  With over 700 episodes of Growing Deer TV, the trials and research conducted at his farm "The Proving Grounds" are well documented.  Within this content is a journey of striving to provide high quality food plots through building healthy soil.

Food plot content has been taken to a crazy level in the media.  More people have dabbled in food plots than not, and there are more "professionals" now than ever before.  Like deer hunting, food plots can have an ego associated with the time, money, and blends growers put out.  Regardless of differing food plot blend preferences, we can all agree that good food plots start with good soil.  Dr. Woods shares with us how he has developed his food plot system to promote quality soil and highly efficient nutrient exchange.  We navigate the journey to the current day, and practices such as no-till and the learning curves associated with this management.  Dr. Woods addresses much of the confusion about the seed blends he uses and how each blend has a very specific purpose.  You'll learn how this system is allowing him to feed more wildlife with fewer input costs than ever before!

Show Transcript

[00:00:00] Hey there everybody. Thanks again for tuning into another episode of the Pennsylvania Woodsman Podcast. I am your host, Mitchell Shirk. And finally, some spring light conditions going on. I was actually able to get out and do some work. I've been cutting wood like crazy at my place. I had a bunch of ash trees, uh, follow up and just make a mess on my property.

And I'm trying to clean 'em up because I really want to do, uh, a good job this year of cleaning up some invasives on my property. I have some trees I'd like to plant and I, I just want to, you know, continue down the road of making my property what I wanted to be. Uh, I kind of got lazy the past few years.

I think I might've mentioned before. I just haven't put as much time and effort into it as I, as I wanted to or should have. And I just tried to change my priority. So I've been doing that. [00:01:00] Uh, I was working on that tonight. But, uh, no, we've been rolling here. Busy, uh, family stuff been doing, uh, trying to get a bunch of podcasts lined up for you guys.

I got some exciting stuff coming up through. Um, I was, uh, I just came off of a birthday party weekend, had the, the kids, uh, my, my, uh, my oldest just turned three and my youngest is just about to turn. Once we had a kind of a in between joint birthday party. It was huge. It was quite the, quite the process in, in planning and, and having that, you know what, it was wonderful.

And, uh, it's just been crazy. I just, I just sit down and think about all that's been going on now and I just can't believe we're almost through March. We're, we're rapidly approaching Turkey season and spring and spring planting, and gosh, just. Busy, busy time of year. And speaking of spring planting, we are, like I said, getting very, very close to getting ready to roll [00:02:00] planters out and be planting corn and soybeans.

I'm making decisions on managing, uh, winter wheat at this point for, for my clients. And, uh, you know, with that we're already thinking, you know, I'm thinking about food plots and I know a lot of you guys are, and you know, I've said this before and I'll say it again. There is more than one way to skin a cat.

And I have continued to do things differently from the end of food plots for a while now. And, and I, I don't, I, I would not say that I've landed on anything perfect that I would just call good as gold. I'm always trying to just tinker and learn what's gonna work better on different properties and stuff.

But, you know, one thing I will say that I have learned from food plotting, uh, mostly from agriculture is the more you can keep something living and growing, In the soil for a longer period of time and not have that soil be bare and exposed to wind, rainwater, any of the elements, [00:03:00] and, and allow that soil to just do what it was naturally designed to do and grow things, uh, the better your plant species are.

And understanding things like, you know, what does it mean to, to be regenerative, you know, that you get the buzzwords, regenerative ag and soil. Like what does that actually mean? Um, there are few people out there, um, and, and I'm gonna say this few people out there in the hunting world and food plot world that do a better job of understanding and explaining it to, to us.

Um, as, as you know, consumers of content. Then the guests that I had this week. So what an awesome experience this was for me to have this guest on and interview him and talk about cuz uh, you know, we, we go through a journey of food plotting in his career to where he's got now with the process, um, the release process as it's, as it's known [00:04:00] and.

That guest is somebody, like I said, I have, have filed his work for quite a long time, and as of many of you, and he's, he's just an extremely respected individual. I have a ton of respect for this individual, uh, you know, not just from a, um, field work and career standpoint, but also as a person, the things he, he does, um, as a person for the, for his community and what his value standpoint.

Uh, I'll, I'll, I'll quit beating around the bush here this week. Um, our, our guest is Dr. Grant Woods from Growing Dear tv. You know, talk about a cool guy. I'll never forget, you know, when I was going through, uh, my, my, my decision in college and career, you know, when I was a freshman in college thinking, you know, I, I was, you know, majoring in biology, minor, minor in environmental science, and man, I thought I had to be a deer biologist or some kind of biologist.

And, you know, I was looking at [00:05:00] his internship programs and, and this and that, and I reached out to him, sent an email trying to understand, you know, uh, just, just some guidance and direction. I'll never forget walking back from my, my, uh, I think it was a 7:45 AM class, walking back around like at 8 59 o'clock timeframe.

And, uh, my phone ringing and seeing it was a Missouri number and picked it up and said, hello, and I heard. Mitchell, this is Dr. Grant Woods speaking. And I, I, like, I went into like a fanboy moment, like my heart sang. I was like, uh, hello Dr. Woods. It's real. Thank you for calling. And, and it was, it was just a really cool experience.

I'll never ever forget that. But, you know, he, he, he really just said something along the lines of, you know, this isn't, uh, this isn't what you would perceive it to be. If you're thinking about this solely from a hunting perspective, which most of us know that, um, maybe, [00:06:00] probably don't know it as, as well as we should when you're, if you're somebody like me who was thinking about, uh, this as a, you know, wildlife biology as a career at the time.

But, uh, he just said, I, I really encourage you to, to listen to what the creator is, is trying to, to put in your story. You know, that phone call, it might have lasted, you know, 4, 5, 6 minutes. I will never forget that phone call. And it was so cool. So it was really, really neat to, uh, be in the position where I'm at now, almost 10 years later, you know, busy, um, you know, in the world of agronomy and be able to relate to this food plotting system he's using as I get to see very, very similar things in the agricultural world.

So what a cool conversation. Like I said, we talk a lot about the release process, no-till food plots and understanding, uh, How to have a minimal input system. And when I'm talking minimal inputs, I'm talking from the, the end of [00:07:00] herbicides, synthetic fertilizers, things like that. And utilizing plants and the, the ecosystem to do what it was designed to do and, and produce, um, food, produce, tonnage, nutrient rich, nutrient dense plants, um, and how plants can do that in the right system.

And, and he brings us through the journey of where he got started in food plotting to, um, how we got into no-till, to how he began tinkering with different blends and, and where we're at now. And this is a, it's really a journey in conversation. It's not just. By the book, you know, Dr. Woods is a storyteller.

He's, he, he has such an, um, artistic mind in his ability to explain things in a way that, you know, just allows people like you and I to just understand so much better. And, uh, he uses that and comes in full circle. And so many of the questions we ask, and this is you, you know, I have a hard time saying [00:08:00] this, but, but I'm, I'm gonna say it because, um, I've had so.

Fantastic guest on this show. I, I've, I've been blessed to be able to talk with so many different people, and I appreciate every one of them who have had their time, but man, thi this one is an extra special one for me. Thi this has been one of my favorite episodes that I've been able to bring to you guys just because it's somebody who I've looked up to for such a long time, and then it's about a topic that I'm extremely passionate.

So it, it was, uh, a great opportunity. I really think you guys are gonna like this episode. I think you're gonna be able to learn a lot about it. You know, if you filed Dr. Woods in any capacity for all time, there's definitely gonna be things that, um, you've heard him say before, but there's a lot of other things in a lot of context to our conversation that maybe you haven't heard before, and I think you'll take value to.

So, you know, if, if you're thinking about how you want to manage food plots this spring, this conversation is definitely something that I think will [00:09:00] at least fire you up and put you in the direction, um, that, that we are discussing today. So I really hope you enjoyed this episode. Um, like I said, I enjoyed bringing it to you, so hope all is well.

Have a great week guys, and let's get to this.

So, uh, joining me today, I'm gonna do my best to not get all giddy and excited because this is a special guest I'm really excited to, to have on with me this afternoon. Uh, Dr. Grant Woods, thank you for taking some time and chatting with us. Oh, thanks for the opportunity. I look forward to it. Yeah, you're a, you're a, a busy, busy guy, but one thing that's been really, really cool is, uh, I just love how you network with people and, uh, you know, you're not afraid to share your wealth of knowledge and share, share whatever you've learned in creation and help people.

Well, I'm usually learning from other people. I like visiting cause I like learning. So it's a, it's a good thing for me to do. I, a lot of people out there have a lot of knowledge and [00:10:00] experience. I like learning from practitioners. Of course, I come from a university background, you know, and stats and research.

But through my career that, that's very valid. That's still awesome, but, I've learned that oftentimes practitioners, maybe farmers or whatever, some of them are, you know, pushing the edge somewhere, they're trying something new and after they've tried and kind of figured out, then oftentimes universities go, man, let's see if that really works.

And they're run a test. Well, I kinda like being on that cutting edge and if you've got, in this case, a farmer that's just growing great crops, a little bit more profitable, doesn't have as much soil erosion, whatever you're looking for, and why not visit with them and learn from someone that's actually doing it?

I just really enjoy learning from practitioners. And one thing that I want to emphasize here, because, uh, it's important to me on my channels, is your openness to expressing your belief in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, and, and sharing that truth with people. I really appreciate that, that you bring that into, [00:11:00] into your show for people to listen.

Hey man, that's a, a core to everything I do. You know, some people say that it is a core, and I real simply, when I was. Six years old. I first grade, I had a little trap line, a little rabbit box trap line. Of course, I thought it was a big Yukon trapper out there, you know, and it was in Missouri code Noway right before Christmas break that year.

And I'd heard at the barbershop somewhere, I wish I could remember where, but they were gonna restock some deer in the county. There were no deer. I'd never seen a living deer thing. I'd seen one on Daniel Boone show or something like that. And one morning early I, I did my chores and I went out to quote unquote, run my trap line like three little box traps for rabbits.

And I found a female fawn in one of our little farm fields that had been shot in the head. First deer ever saw, had been poached. And I mean, from that moment on, I, I couldn't imagine something as valuable as a deer being, you know, poached like that. So I'm really dislike poachers, lawbreakers, whatever. And just been fascinated with deer.

Well, years later, I, I come to believe that, I [00:12:00] think God literally used that moment to make me super interested in deer. and whatever skills I have, maybe I can, you know, get someone's attention, a fellow hunter or something, and share Christ with them. And, and that's literally been the basis for my career and, and still is today.

I, I like learning about creation and the creator's plan, which is a lot about the release process, right? Using less synthetic inputs, whatnot, to make his creation very productive. We're not making it, we're kind of restoring it. And, and I'll also take one more thing down this rabbit hole. I'm not mad at anyone.

You know, when the first pioneers come through and they're cutting trees and burning into whatever, they were just surviving, right? Mm-hmm. . And more recently, when they got, you know, gasoline powered engines and moldboard plows, they were trying to feed a groin nation. No one was trying to cause erosion.

That probably wasn't even a word then. So I'm not mad. I'm never mad about the past. I think we can learn. By studying past events and hopefully improving the future. And that's what the release process is. Or in ag, it's called Journey Bag wholeheartedly. [00:13:00] And one thing I'd like to just make mention of before we go on to this next part, you were talking about, you know, the creator's will for our life and, and, and such o one thing that I've truly believe in, in there are moments, there are those little moments that God uses, I think, to, uh, guide and direct us and give us, uh, just thoughts of advice.

But, you know, the, the creator's will for our life is to to love him and follow him. And, uh, it's amazing how, you know, There's an open book with the tools and, and interests that he have to use us to network with people and show share that truth. And I just love what you've done through something with, with as deep of scientific research and, and hard work as you put into it.

I just really appreciate that. But, um, I, I, I wanted to kind of go down a rabble, we're talk about food plots and a lot of our conversations and of all the people that, um, I come to my mind when I think of, uh, a journey in food plots. You know, you've done a really good job of documenting from the time you started growing Deer [00:14:00] TV and the proving grounds to where you're at now.

I mean, I mean, you're up over 700 episodes and there's a ton of information packed in into those episodes, but I, I'd really like to un, you know, invest in, uh, some time discussing the journey in. From, from the time that ground was, was cleared and no-till. Cuz I remember watching some of them first episodes with a, with a no-till drill and listening to the, the rocks go through that.

And I, it just makes me cringe it. Oh. And uh, then to seeing where it, uh, where the, where the proven grounds ended up and your, your soul. It's just a unique journey. And I, I'd love for you to, to walk us through with that based on, uh, how you ended up coming to the release process. But no-till drilling is that you started off no-tilling, right?

I did. So Tracy and I, my wife Tracy and I were living in South Carolina. We had 13 acres I saw outside and all along our driveway was a food plot. You know, that's what you saw. You pulled in our driveway as a food [00:15:00] plot and, and then you finally got to the house. You gotta get your, you know, your values right here, I guess.

But anyway, and I, and I was, uh, at that time I'd started a little company called Biologic later, sold it to Demassio. Oak Boy was still friends with them and. I was planting some test plots and you know, just trying different things. I'd went to New Zealand and learned about brassicas and wanted to see if, you know, a deer in North America would eat 'em or not.

So doing stuff, planting single species at a time, doing stuff and, and I'd borrow my buddy's old Ford tractor and his three point plow and just plow that clay till he'd just couldn't play. You know, it'd just be dust flying everywhere. Nope. One more pass would be good. And, and kind of noticed, you know, a loss of production and whatnot.

And Chase and I had the opportunity. We, we found an old burnout cattle ranch here at the proven grounds. And to be honest, I've never worked a property in my 31 year career that had as many cattle skeletons where cattle just starved to death on the ranch. That's how poor it was and why we could afford it.

It was very inexpensive land. It was nothing like today. It was, it was, it was rough and wanted to scratch [00:16:00] food plotter two in, had no money and had, you know, got ahold of a tractor somehow. And the county here, our local county, which is still a practice today, a lot of people use, has a. NRCS office. Most counties in America have an NRCS office and a lot of those offices will rent no-till drills.

It was part of a big government program long ago and they vary a little bit around different states, but they're typically like some, like seven bucks an acre or minimum of $70. Real, inexpensive, great asset I think for people to use. Now there's some issues, right? You may not get the drill right when you want it, cuz when it's proper planting time, everybody wants to drill or it's broken from the last guy who didn't take care of it.

But what, it was a great tool for us. So knock some trees down. Locust trees and cedar trees is what I had. Locust trees and cedar trees and uh, and rented US drill. And literally after removing those trees, there was no top soil. This is Zat Mountains. It's known to be highly eroded. To county is Stone County.

That's the name of the county Stone. And I literally, at the time I didn't know him better. [00:17:00] I was planting treated seed, had all kind of nasty fungicide stuff on there, but they'd be colored purple or orange. So you knew they were dangerous. A lot of people don't know those colors are a warning. Uh, and I would drill by going down a path and I could see my seeds laying on top of rocks.

So I knew how to space over cause there was no dent in the rocks. It wasn't like I was making furrows in the ground. Mm. I would see the seed and it rained. Right. God blessed us and it grew. Somehow I, in hindsight, I don't know how, but it grew and, and and, and then I had no plow to plow thunder. So the next time I planted I just plant right through that.

Right. I just, It wasn't, oh, I'm doing Reg Bagg. That wasn't even a word back then. Literally, it's just the tools I had at hand. Right. You were using conventional ag purposes just with no-till. You were, you were doing Yeah. Mostly monocultures and commercial fertilizer herbicides. Correct. Well, you know, that's an interesting point.

Our, our local co-op here in Missouri is mfa, Missouri Farmer Association. It's Tennessee Farmer Squad in Tennessee, and, you know, various different names throughout the nation. And I'd went to, [00:18:00] I took a soil test sample, of course, and I went to my local MFA store and took that sample in there and they said, okay, you need this, you need this fertilizer.

And I paid for it. It was even expensive back then. They brought their truck out. My lands again, really rough, and I'll never forget this. I stand on my porch, just so excited, man. I'm, I'm a fertilizer food plot, you know, man, I'm, I'm a big boy now. This is cool. And he made one pass and just drove out the driveway.

He didn't even stop, just drove out the driveway. And I chased the guy down, literally, and caught him right before he got the driveway, actually. And, hang on, you know, you have a flat or you know what's wrong? I said, your lands too rough, man is I'm not wasting my time fertilizing in some little food plot and drove out with the fertilizer I purchased in the back of his truck.

I never forget it. Wow. And this was again, a, a god point in my life, cuz you know, I'm, of course I was 21 years ago, I'm younger and on and whatnot. I get kind of upset. And so by golly I get my truck and drive down to Arkansas, which isn't that far from here to an implement dealer. And I'm gonna fi buy me a buggy spreader so I can spread my own fertilizer.

Right. And I'm all [00:19:00] fired up and I go in there just, I'm just still, we're still buddies today actually. But this nice young Mennonite salesman, uh, who was pretty calm and he could just tell I was, you know, man, I was fighting mad, you know, and he's like, Now, calm down Mr. Woods. Calm down. There maybe a solution besides buying, I wanted an Adam stainless steel fertilizer bug.

He'd like the, you know, the best of the best fertilizer buddies at the time anyway. And he's like, now calm down Mr. Woods. My, my Uncle Galen just down the road here, he's kind of crazy here, drive anywhere and he makes composted Turkey litter. And I'd heard about composting college, but you know, back then you were taking your garbage out and putting some saw dusts with it in the backyard, turning it like, you know, I'm trying to grow big deer here.

I need some NP and K. He's like, well, you just might wanna visit with Uncle Galen before you do anything. Well, long story short, I did go visit with Uncle Galen who was not being mean. You know, I had the beard and suspend her. Overall, it's kinda worn out, you know? And Uncle Galen was a [00:20:00] genius. Literally goes all over the road now teaching in composting soil microbes.

And to be honest, at that time I didn't understand soil microbes. . I was just like, well this is cheaper and fertilizer and he's willing to drive my heels. Put some on there, buddy. That's what I was thinking. But 30 years I worked with G for many years. He finally sold his recipe and stuff to a guy further away and it was just too cost-prohibitive to ship it here.

Hmm. It was a great product. It was just cost prohibitive or become that way. And Galen taught me a lot about NP and K God never fit of plants to just take that outta soil. They go through microbes. Microbes actually go in and outta roots and you know, it's really fascinating science And Galen's a guy that got me thinking this never been college in his life here.

I'm just, I don't mean this wrong, but you know, fresh PhD and got the world. This farmer just taught me, again, a practitioner just really took me school and he'd studied all over with kinda like a kung fu student with some masters of composting and, and so that got me [00:21:00] thinking, hey, there might be a different way than paying for this MP and K.

And it's of course it's synthetic made nitrogen. Was part of the process, how to build the atomic bomb in Germany. Mm-hmm. . And when the war was over and we won, that scientist came to America, you can go online and read all about this. And they said, well, I got this process, but I don't know what to do with it.

And they said, well, we think we can use nitrogen agriculture in, back then, it was really cheap. Everyone applied way too much. Kind of some of the problems we have today related to that. But, so Galen took me under the wing and as I started getting into that cycle, that circle of it, he introduced me to some buddies and we started talking microbes and soil and I, and then I started planting blintz.

I, I never at that time, never thought out, well, who would plant, you know, a whatever, a clover and a radish together, what, you know, simple blends back then. Yeah. Was that just something you wanted to try or like, how did you start even start doing that? Because, you know, there was a time that that was taboo.

Oh yeah. I got, I got called a lot of nasty stuff back in the [00:22:00] day. Uh, you know, I started thinking basically with clover. Clover used to be really strong. Still is, of course. And, but clover in areas like this that traditionally go through a kind of a dry summer. Shallow soils don't hold much moisture. Your clover brown up might leave you with nothing but weeds for a few months out here, right?

Or when it gets really cold, it goes dormant and hey man, I need to fill that gap somehow. And so, and even some farmers back then, they replanting wheat as a cover crop with clover. And then I kind of discovered cereal rye, which grows more cold, hearty days. So I put some wheat, which is slightly more palatable in the warm season, and then one gets really cold to rise, more palatable.

So I'm like, man, I can do clover wheat and rye cover some more bases. And then I'm like, well boy, when rashes first pop outta ground, they're really pable. So I could do a few radishes, some clover, wheat and Rhine. It just grew from there. And now I'm working on a summer blend right now. I think it's got 14 species in it.

It's experimental for me. I, I, I'm not failures. I know that. I like seeing cuz once you get into it, you learn some plants compliment each [00:23:00] other. For example, buckwheat, the, the all plants leak carbonic acid, it's called exudates. And it just a little bit comes, they make more than they need. It comes outta roots now.

And you get that through photosynthesis, right? C six, carbon, H 1206. A byproduct of photosynthesis is a lot of carbon. And little little bit aside, we hear all this stuff. Oh, we got this carbon in there carbon's, I polluting. Uh, carbon. Carbon. Carbon. That's not my world science. I'm not arguing that one or another.

But I do know this carbon is the most important food for plants, bar none. Mm. Over NP and K or anything else. Plants are about 70% carbon. They're a small percent nitrogen carbon. If we have a problem, we need more carbon in soil. When you drive by in the south, you know it's all red from iron oxidates or real gray clay or real yellow clay.

That's a lack of carbon. Carbon makes soil black carbon's black. You've probably seen carbon pork. Sure, sure carbon makes soil black. . Uh, and, and so our farming practices have pushed carbon up in the air instead [00:24:00] of pumping it back in the soil. And so by planting more species together and getting these different strengths of carbonic acid, cause our nutrients come from apparent material, I Iraqi stuff.

Mm-hmm. . And another lesson of course, I was taught in college and soil classes. It takes about a thousand years to make an inch of soil. And you know how this professor says that you memorize it to pass the test, you believe it. And Gail's, like I I go about a quarter inch a year if you want me to. It takes a million years gay.

You can't do that. But you're right. Not disking the soil and the plant's just pumping into it. I average reached about a quarter inch a year here have been for several years. And on those rocks where I started, I have many inches of really. Really super healthy soil organic matter. It's incredible when you, when I go back and I look at those first videos of you No-till and to, to now and, and I'm thinking of the videos, um, it was some of the ones you, you, you put last, last spring, uh, with Ward [00:25:00] Labs and seeing the How to Soil test and going through that soil test.

When I watch the video and, and, and guys, if you've. You're listening, you don't know what I'm talking about. Uh, there's a specific video about nine months ago, uh, going through a soil test on the proving grounds, and I was absolutely astounded at the values on those from your macronutrients to your micronutrients into the soil health aspect, which is a, is another interesting topic of, of, uh, soil testing that we haven't really talked about here.

And maybe we can get into that. But, uh, what's so fascinating is, correct me if I'm wrong, but there hasn't been a lot of fertilizer on that specific field of, of any, any form other than the release process for quite a long time. Yeah. We haven't purchased any fertilizer or any lime or no magic juice in a jug or whatever for eight years except, and I wanna always tell the truth literal.

I have bought a few bags of fertilizer, pelletized lime, and I'll do a little corner of a field or something as a test. [00:26:00] Mm-hmm. , you know, to take a soil sample there versus over here, whatever. Uh, but that's a huge cost savings to not be buying, especially in the current market today. Fertilizer prices are, you know, double what they were last year and last year's really high.

Uh, but, and it's also time. I don't have to take the time to go buy that and spread it or spread it by hand in my small plots. Um, so I've not bought any hear me clearly, folks. Not, not like fudging a little bit. I apply none, no compost. You know, I'm not, there's not a workaround here. Always kind of work around on it.

There's no workaround. I use plants and a good rotation, and I never disturbed soil. I, I just followed the, the, pardon me, the basic principles of soil health. Again, going back to the crater and the time of that. When I got going, I started thinking about, well, guys, all the historians think there was about 60 million bison.

I call 'em Buffalo on the Great Plains. , that's an estimate. You know, you ever take 10 million? Who knows a bunch of 'em, right? Big bison, big [00:27:00] planes, bison, not woodland. Bison over east, we're about twice as big as the average cow now. So 120 cows, 120 million. There's not 120 million cows in the Great plains now with all of synthetic fertilizer, lime herbicide now, a lot more development.

Not as much, all that stuff, but this was happening under God's plan, uh, with fire. Fire was, you know, wildfire, native American set, fire, you know, accidental fires, whatever. Uh, and Buffalo's Graz and I was in Yellowstone family vacation. I was working out there, little was of Annapolis. And then took, you know, took a week for the family night to go play tourists and whatnot.

And we happened to be watching a herd of Buffalo and Yellowstone crossing Yellowstone River and there was some little calves and my daughter was worried about 'em getting swept down the river, you know, little family story. And I was thinking about, well, The, the goal, cuz I've worked in Yellowstone, the goal is 500 head of buffalo with Neil Stone.

There's 6,000 gum. It won't kill 'em. You know it, it's a bad thing. They're eating us outta house and home. Um, and by the way, one of my [00:28:00] pet peeves, we say our national parts are natural ecosystems, you know, in Yellowstone now we got wolves and wolverines and cougars and all that stuff. But there used to be a sign at the south gate said Yellowstone was a home to 30,000 Native Americans.

Well that's the most dominant predator, not grizzly bears Native Americans. So yellowstone's not natural until we allow hunting in there again. Bingo. You know that cause the elk stare at you. Yeah, they do ridiculously . If you had a bow or 30 out six in your hand, they'd be going the other way, buddy. Just a few shots.

They figured that one out quick. So they've, they've allowed that to be, uh, the vegetation to be extremely over browsed cuz it's not managed as it was set up for that ecosystem. Too many critters out there. and unfortunately a lot of deer herds across America are the same way. There's more mouses than groceries because, and a real simple thing for your listeners to do, I, I make all my interns do this.

Some of 'em don't like it, but I still, you know, I'll sit in truck with them, make 'em do it. But you can go to [00:29:00] YouTube and just search for Daniel Boone's biography. Daniel Boone is very literate, rode a lot. He couldn't, he didn't spell much better than I do, but he rode a lot. And, uh, he talks about going all the way across Kentucky and he's wide open, just, you know, a tree every a hundred yards and grass and Forbes in between uncountable turkeys.

He rode one place. He'd heard a Turkey gobble from east to west. He was never out here in range of a Turkey gobble as he crossed Kentucky. Now Turkey populations are plummeting, right? Mm-hmm. and more recently a brilliant researcher for the Forest Service, United States Forest Service. And that's very political.

I got a lot of buddies work there. I'm just telling, it's just political. Wrote a true scientific paper. Said we don't have an issue with too many deer. , we have an issue with unnatural low quality habitat. Mm. And that's true because throughout most of America we have a closed canopy forest. But every area, like in my area, there was an early explorer, think like Lewis and Clarks at much smaller scale, a guy named [00:30:00] school Croft went through here looking for lead mine.

And this is when there were just a few trappers in the area. You know, he was seeing Native Americans and smelling Native American camp parks, whatnot. And it's only about 70 pages of notes. It was a shorter journey to Lewis Park. He just may swing through the Ozarks here and he talks about these wide open oaks Savannahs and grasses.

High as a horses. Bri on him. He never mentions tick. Lewis Park never mentions tick cuz these areas were wide open and got more sunshine. Ticks need moisture, like deep leaf litter. And there was a lot of fire, a lot of negative American set. Fire and fire of course desiccates. The grounds and ticks have to have moisture.

So the best, like any animal, we can improve the habitat. and make more of a species or allow that species to propagate, which we've done for ticks, right? Thick leaf litter, no fire, perfect tick habitat. Or we could manage against ticks. Open up that forest, let some more sunshine down. Have grasses and Forbes growing instead of leaf litter.

Burn it off every now and then, and research those clearly [00:31:00] that those tick populations. They're not gonna wipe 'em out, but they will decline. The reason we don't wipe 'em out. When that turns green, it's the best food in the neighborhood. So deer come back in there, rabbits come in there and they shed a few tips.

Yeah, it's quite interesting that, you know, I have conversations with farmers all across Pennsylvania and it's amazing how I have conversations with farmers that complain about the high densities of deer and extreme, uh, you know, Uh, defoliation in crop fields. And then in the, the same communities we'll come have, uh, conversations with, uh, people in the public and hunters and managers that say, we don't have enough deer.

And the ideologies of, of, uh, kind of a social caring capacity are, are quite different. And I've had this conversation with a lot of my growers and try to emphasize that, you know, one of the, the biggest problems is there's, there's probably not as many deer across this landscape as you think there are that are, you know, defoliating your crops.

But the one thing that I have noticed across the ridges and valleys in our, in our [00:32:00] state, is the low quality habitat surrounding these crop fields that has forced a lot of. Browse pressure to occur on highly manicured crop lands. You know, we got a lot of, uh, high quality fertilizers and manures and high quality soils that produce good corn, soybeans, wheat, and, and a host of other crops.

And I, I think it's causing that much more, uh, stress on, on crop fields when it, it, and in reality, shouldn't. And that kind of stirs a, a question in my mind, going back to the release process and building soil and building for fertility. I, I'm curious, um, you know, watching the, the proving grounds, uh, build to what it, what it is today.

There was a, a process that happened, uh, not just in your food plots, but on the landscape itself. And, uh, it was high quality food and cover across the entire landscape, including food plots. So, [00:33:00] you know, we're, we're talking about having high quality. Uh, native brows, uh, and and such. But do you find that, uh, because this is what I get, people ask me a lot, well, how do I implement a, a release system, a no-till system that's gonna, uh, build my fertility and this and that?

Um, , but I'm, I'm, a lot of the time, what I see is it doesn't seem like the, the amount of emphasis is put into the native habitat and there's more pressure on food plots. I'm, I'm sure you've seen that in, in your travels across the country. So can you explain to us a little bit, like when people are listening to the release process, this no-till system, regenerative ag, whatever buzzwords we want to call it, uh, Dr.

Woods, um, what are some of the things that we need to watch out for to make this really, really, uh, work? Let's say it's a, a field that has really poor fertility, you know, something like when you started out and you're, you're trying to build it. What are some of the things you need to watch out in order to make [00:34:00] this success?

And what should be the expectation, uh, when you're going into this journey? I think you see the key word expectations, and we know that satisfaction is a function of expectations. So if you carve out a quarter acre food plot on the side of Wendell Ridges in Pennsylvania, and for a mile narrow direction as clothes can't be forest.

You're gonna track some deer as long as there's still forage there. But you're probably not gonna make a lot of progress in improving the soil's health cuz your plants never get big enough. You know, we, we think about a plant like an iceberg. You see about one third above soil and there's two third of roots flow of soil.

Now when you go to pull the plant out a soil, you don't see that, but you hear this crack cuz you're ripping off all little hair roots or the biggest portion of biomass. They, they tend to stay in the soil. But, and I have that at my place. I can go to the, a more timbered portion of my property where I haven't done as much TSI or timber stand improvement yet and scratch out a little food plot by hand tools.

I do it all the time for honey and I call 'em hides plan and I won't get the [00:35:00] tonnage per square foot or unit area as I do in the bigger field cause there's so much pressure there cuz they're so close to cover. So ideally the release process would be a combination of working on your native habitat and releasing this potential, which usually means opening up the canopy.

and suppressing or killing the low quality trees and leaving the better quality trees. Now, I, I'm a forester also by training. I have a degree in forestry too. And, and every time I say this I get a bunch of email from foresters. So please, let's just skip that step this time. Okay? I've had enough email.

You're not gonna say anything. Someone hadn't already called me fat, ugly, skinny, fat, and skinny at the same time. I, I've already heard it all. So, but foresters are there to make a living and so they want to naturally and understand, take the better trees cuz they get a better return for their effort, right?

If you cut a, a big old cherry saw timber log, you're gonna make more money at the mill than hardwood pulp, as a facetious example. So foresters often wanna [00:36:00] take the best and leave the rest. That's their economic model. Sometimes a landowner has a different objective, especially if they purchase land for recreation, maybe to hunt or scenic beauty or whatever, and they want to leave those best trees.

And I think there's a very workable compromise we need to realize, cuz oftentimes foresters say, and this is this rule of thumb I see across America, well, we're gonna cut everything 18 inches or bigger, which tends to be the better trees, right? They grew better straighter. And you leave the worst trees, you do that a couple rotations on your property, you're left with junk wood and it's decades to turn that around.

So instead of just taking a harvest by diameter, which is really easy, tell the operator, Hey buddy, you know Bob, if it's over 18 inches, put that thing on a truck and do it by species. Or take out all the crooked trees and you're gonna make less profit. But now you're leaving the better trees and, and so for recreational landowners, not production, timberland, recreational landowner, we have to have a change of heart of forestry [00:37:00] in most areas where we're doing true timber stand improvement, our harvest.

For commercial or profit or pre-commercial harvesters out there, Hacken squirt working to improve the timber future value for you or your family and wildlife habitat at same time, cuz I won't take much time, but in simple terms I'll use pine trees cuz they're so remarkable and easier. If you've got a pine tree not big enough to make a two before that would be sold as pope and that's a lower value per ton.

And if you get into chip and saw, you can cut at least a two by four outta middle. Well that's more valuable for the same volume. Wood chipped up cuz it has to be straight in a certain grain quality and whatnot. And if you get big enough to cut a two by six, well two by six is one and a half, two by four s.

But if you go to Home Depot or wherever you go, a two by six is more than twice a two before. Cuz it takes a bigger tree. You had to wait more years to even cut the two before you know I'm on up a two, two by twelves. A very expensive tree. Cause you had to have a pretty big tree. So if the [00:38:00] landowner can be patient and wait a little bit more, they don't need that money to pay their mortgage right then they will make more money per year if you cost figure this over a period of years by selling a better product and allow under timber to improve where they can have a continual stream of better products over time.

But unfortunately that tastes some thinking and some patience. So a lot of people just, hey, cut everything 16 inches or bigger. Mm-hmm. And we've done that for a couple of rotations now throughout much of the whitetails range. And we have historically low quality forests, especially in our hardwoods, cuz they're not managed precisely as pines are often.

So I'm encouraging recreational landowners to turn that trend and manage for better quality. and by doing so, you will have better deer habitat. You're gonna give that tree more room around it, more sun to express its genetic potential and more. Sun means you're getting some grasses and Forbes, which give you cover in food, [00:39:00] and you're taking out those low quality trees.

Cuz remember, growing deer is all about photosynthesis. We have to do photosynthesis to make grain or protein, any of those things we consider feed all start with photosynthesis. None of that happens without photosynthesis. Cows don't gain weight bucks, don't gain weight bucks don't grow antlers. Those don't have farms without photosynthesis.

If they're in a pen, they're hauling in feed that was created by photosynthesis somewhere else. It literally all starts with photosynthesis. But when we have trees, all the photosynthesis is happening. You know, pick a number, 40, 60, 80 feet above the ground. We have to have photosynthesis within about zero to three or four feet of the ground.

To grow better and deer. So circling back around, if you approach like I've done your native habitat, be it timber, grasslands, whatever, and food plots at the same time, you'll make much faster gain cuz you're growing more tonnage and spreading a deer out a little bit. [00:40:00] Now with that said, one last thing.

You plant a one acre soybean field, soy or alfalfa, something really highly palatable. Whatever you pick in the middle of a mile or close campy forest, you're not gonna make much progress. It's just so much better. It's like, grant, do you want ice cream or do you want Brussels sprouts? I'm gonna take the ice cream every time.

And dear, you're gonna take that really lush forage versus a bramble off side here, and you're gonna compare that monoculture in a food plot the same way that you would compare a monoculture in conventional agriculture. We're trying to push maximum tonnage and maximum yield potential in that, and we're gonna harvest a very great deal from that, and that's gonna deprive a lot from that soil.

So, you know, sticking with your, the, the release process, so, um, with, with some of the fields, like, like the field that you would've had that soil test on, can you give us a snapshot of the, the timeline and the years of progress and how you saw the trends in your soil samples change and the tonnage therefore change in those food [00:41:00] plots?

Yeah, that's a great question. So I started pretty much with soybeans and deer. I, I'm, I'm a hundred miles from any type of ag deer, had never seen a soybean. There is no grain carts, no silos, no combines anywhere near me. You, you never see 'em on the highway or anything. There's none. Zero hard for some people to imagine.

So I planted eagle seed soybeans. I know the family well. Good family and, and man, they were getting five feet tall cuz deer didn't. Deer would, I'd watch deer, they would walk through the soybeans, need a ragweed on side of field and they used to, but I'm like, I spent all this money making this food plot, you know?

And, and that happened about two years. And so I'm growing a lot of biomass that wasn't being consumed and recycling that in the soil and adding a little bit of compost as budget allowed. And then deer discovered soybeans and I made a mistake. I hung with them too long, but the last few years I planted them, they never got lip high.

And I'm spending quite a bit of resources, time, diesel, fuel, whatever, plus seed. And I [00:42:00] just, I wasn't making progress so I kind of went backwards a little bit and I started planting some blends. In the winter, most people start with fall. It's easier, less weed competition or whatever. And I started planting blends and man, I'm, all of a sudden my soil tests are getting a nudge better and I'm growing more tons.

It's not lip high. , you know, and in the spring when deer back off food plots and go to native vegetation, cuz it greens up, my food plots are getting chin high on me. I'm, I'm six feet tall, you know, I'm, I'm walking through here getting pollen in my nose. And I started really adding tonnage. And about that time I found a farmer named David Brandt.

You can still go to YouTube, find him Dave. I, I've never met David. He's a brilliant man, love shake his hand. And he's a production ag farmer, mainly on rented land. He done known a lot of land in Ohio in an area where development's taken up mostly crop land, so it's real competitive to get land. And he went broke and all.

He, he sold all his equipment and he bought a no-till drill, last ditch effort and played with that for a few years, started metal progress and he got a roller crier. So he is terminating with the crim of a herbicide. And a [00:43:00] herbicide course is not natural. That's a toxin in soil. I'm not anti herbicide, but I want people to use the least amount necessary.

I relate herbicide like a, a, a root canal. I don't want one, but if I have to have one to save the tooth next to it, I'll certainly get one. and if you're full of really noxious weaves, you're probably not gonna get on top of it with just a roller crimper. So you may have to use a pass or to a herbicide, just kind of set the clock back.

It's pretty simple stuff. And David Brant went from these yucky, yucky baby poop colored yellow clay soils to right now and has 22 inches of black dirt now. He's been doing it long, longer than me and gets a little bit more rain. Uh, and it's so, he's changed his soil so much. And this is all published, this, there's no rumor here, uh, that the nr, he's one of two places in North America that the NRC s has went in and reclassified soil cuz on his side of fence it is so different than the rest of the county.

Mm-hmm. And he's making way more profit in putting less inputs in. [00:44:00] And David got me started through his sharing his information on YouTube about roller crimping. So I scrounged around and got me a roller crimper and stopped using as much and now almost no zero herbicide. and when I let crops get full maturity, okay, so the cereal, grains, rye, wheat, whatever, you know, open on the crop in the year, in the rain, it's four to six feet tall.

A lot of tons and clover's, just dog or thick. Cuz if you plant just grasses, like small grains, some sun will get through there and hit soil. And I don't want waste any sunshine, but every bit of sunshine hitting the leaf, that's God's the best solar reactor on the planet. Elon Musk will never make a solar panel as efficient as a leaf.

It just can't be done. There's waste in chemical energy, right? Right. So God's got these beautifully efficient solar panels that make energy and that energy transfers to the soil in the form of those carbon exudates, which feeds the bacteria, which converts rock to ize. So I got a roller crier and now I'm [00:45:00] growing ton, not one ton, tons of forage hit, matures, password dear, want to eat it.

I let it get to the, the dough stage so it's really not palatable. And when plants are making seeds that are fully formed but still moist, they're not viable yet. They're real weak. So crimping them just terminates it easy. And I would plant through this really tall stuff. I started crimping first and trying to plant through it and it's so, you know, you got four inches of duff, you're almost no, no-till drill will cut through it.

You're getting seed hung up in the vegetation. So again, David Branch showed me, although he didn't know, he was showing me, Hey, plant first and then crimp, that's called planting green. So I just tried it. I mean, no, no one, I don't think Eman in Missouri was doing it, let alone down here in Zat. I'm getting laughed at and you know, poke fun at, you gotta have a little thick skin to do this.

Mm-hmm . So I plant green. I. . Beautiful thing about plant Green. You never get lost. Right? Right. Either the vegetation's kind of laying down or you haven't planted there yet. You know, if you skipped anything. So I'm planting green, my radis getting full of pollen, you know, people are laughing at me and then I crimp.

[00:46:00] Once the vegetation get about two inches tall and you're thinking, where you gonna kill it? Onet. You drive through your yard, you don't kill your grass. Right? It stands back up in a day or two. Those young plants are so pliable, they just stand back up. So there's a lot of beauty here. We talked about over browsing.

You've got four foot tall vegetation and a two inch tall, you know, brassica or buck weed or sunflower or soybean, whatever it is. I don't have a mix of all those deer can't find it cause they don't stick their head down to four feet of vegetation to get there. So it's like a greenhouse, it's if it gets cold, it's keeping that cold from getting all the way to ground.

Harsh range. Not pounding it, it's not splashing soil up on the leaves, which is how plants get bacteria. It takes all those issues away. I don't spend any money on fungicide at all. That's a total waste of time for me. And, and so now I got this little greenhouse protecting my plants while they're getting the root system so they can handle browse pressure better.

And again, the release process is just working with creation. Cuz if you think about the prairie [00:47:00] seeds would fall down, maybe Buffalo would come through and tram it and they'd grow up in that duff, it was never bear ground. The ground was never bare. Right? So practitioners like David Brant and many others and looking at natural cycles, Is where the release process come from.

Can, can you, uh, dig a little bit more into, so planting green, you already talked about it, so you're have an a standing living crop that's present. You know, I do that in a lot. I'm fortunate that my portion of the agriculture world in, in Pennsylvania here, we have a lot of that and it's really exciting to see that unfold.

Yeah. Um, but I, I have personally run into some struggles when you're talking about putting cash crops into planting green and managing seeding rates and having really thick covers and sometimes having some residue management struggles. Have you had any of those struggles in, in your, in your, uh, your time messing with, uh, no-till and planting green into this release process?

Once I [00:48:00] started planting green versus planting after I crim, I haven't, but I think there's a couple twists that really help me. I wait a little later than a lot of people do. Probably a week or two. I let my soil get really warm. and I make sure there's adequate moisture. So my seeds are just blowing outta ground.

I'll find some seeds that just, maybe they hit a rock, whatever, and it didn't get into furl very well, but it's protected by four inches of mulch. Well, that root finds a soil and that baby's off to the races. And I don't have much weed competition cuz weed deeds, like no one's really ever seen a ragweed seed or a pigweed or they're so fine.

They're like flour. I mean, if you shake it on your hand, you're seeing 'em, but you don't see 'em blowing through the air. Well those seeds have, all seeds have what I call onboard energy and until they make leaves and photosynthesize, they don't get any more energy. Just putting the root in ground doesn't really give, you gotta photosynthesize.

So you've got your ground level, you've got four inches of pretty thick mulch from your past crop. You've crimped down and you've got a big old [00:49:00] picket sunflower, even Bucky, you know, bean pe, milo, whatever seed there. It's got quite a bit of onboard energy and we'll have enough energy for that seedling to weave through to duff.

and get up there and make two leaves and photosynthesize, but a ragweed, a pig, weed, any of those really noxious weeds, uh, sun, hemp or not sun, hemp, uh, water hemp. Those seeds are so small they tend to starve to death right before they get up and make a leaf and photosynthesize. So really inexpensive and pretty effective.

Not a hundred percent, but pretty dog on effective weed control that just fits a natural system. Absolutely. So I haven't, but I'm disciplined to wait for my soil conditions to be right, for my seeds to blow out a ground. If you plant some seeds, typically the softer shell of seeds, like a soybean or a pier, something soft, not hard, like corner clover, and they get kind of warm and kind of wet, they're going to germinate and it's a real slow process, and that's more time for [00:50:00] insects or fungus to attack.

I want my seeds blowing outta the ground. Just blow past that stage. It's kinda like if we could magically snap our fingers and get Turkey pots one month old, we'd have a lot higher survival rate, cuz that first month they just get slaughtered. Well, if you plant a seed that's just growing really slow and weak, it's chances of survival.

Pretty slim. Yeah, I, I, that's a really important point that you just brought up there. So a lot of people will talk about following the farmers and doing what the farmers, and that's good, but at the same time, you have to keep in mind that there's farmers out there that are farming hundreds, thousands of acres.

And you gotta keep in mind they gotta start at some point. When you're talking about having a window of planting, when we're talking about food plots, waiting for the optimum time is so important. Now, I know if you're renting a drill, you might have to, you know, be on, you know, on a waiting list. And maybe the optimum time doesn't happen if you have your own drill, you know, you have that luxury of waiting like that.

I wanna circle back real quick. So we've, we've talked about, uh, building soil, kind of seeing the fertility happen and, and the release process [00:51:00] unfold, unfolding. We know it takes time. One part of that transition that's really, really hard for people to swallow, and you, you made mention of that is, is weed pressure.

And, and I, I talk about this with a lot of people. You know, there's, there's. Three, what I would consider three main components of, of weed control. Uh, and that's, uh, that's chemical, that's culture. Mm-hmm. , uh, uh, chemical me, mechanical. Yeah. And, uh, biological. So, you know, you know, mechanical, you'd be hand pulling, you know, uh, tillage forms like that.

But that causes an array of problems, as we've already discussed. And, uh, the chemical chemicals are a tool, but man, we've just got, we've just be developed a system that has became so reliant on chemicals and we, we don't put enough weight into that biological system. So my, my, uh, I'm curious, you know, whether you want to use the, the proven grounds as you're starting pouring maybe clients you've worked with across the country.

Um, do you see any common trends or, or [00:52:00] timelines as far as weed pressures and, and seeing this build and, and, and slowly deteriorating and managing that when you go to this system? . Yeah. Uh, one tip we mentioned just briefly earlier, there's tip tends to be less weed pressure of really noxious weeds if you plant in the fog going in the winter.

Mm-hmm. Summer's just full of a whole gamut of weeds. So if you're, you got a big weed seed base or you know, you're taking over a weedy field or maybe field got let go for some years, it may be better if you wanna use no or very limited herbicides to start in a fall with a fall crop, it's just gonna be less pressure.

If you're gonna start with a spring crop, you may wanna use a roundup ready bean or something that's really, uh, a sunflower. Something that's really readily accepting of certain herbicides to clean up that field. Now we need to realize this research is outta Pennsylvania, actually, Penn State, but on any square foot of soil, a couple inches deep.

So, you know, a foot by foot by two inches deep, there are millions of weed suits. And you think, I ain't never seen a weed seed. And I'm digging worms. Remember these [00:53:00] noxious weeds are so small you wouldn't see 'em. They're the same color as dirt. You just not gonna see 'em. But they're. , any dirt pile you see stacked up, like where they're building a new house.

Give it a little bit of time. There's weeds going all over. Just you see it everywhere. The examples are omnipresent, so you may have to use a herbicide first year or two even during that spring. A, a really good hint in your fall crop, you wanna use something like cereal rye or sell seal rise. Just, it's a tool.

It's one of many good tools, but it has a chemical substance in it. Very similar to what walnut trees have. If you ever had a walnut tree in your yard, you know the grass doesn't grow very well under it. And that's cause that tree puts out a natural seed aside. It kills seeds, it kills competition. So gets all the, the goodie for itself.

Cereal ride does, does that same thing. It's a big, long, fancy name, uh, but it's not strong enough to like kill a clover seed or a corn seed. But those little small wee seeds, it does a good job of inhibiting. So I'm gonna say a good thick stand of cereal rye. It's not [00:54:00] spotty. You, your blend had 30, 40 pounds of seal rye plus a bunch of other things.

you're probably gonna knock out 50% of your weeds right there. And that's a round number lot, a lot of context to your local environment. Mm-hmm. . And then one thing I do, I, I like seeing a lot of deer. I run a my deer pop and I have really good habitat so I can run a little bit higher population. Okay? If you've got a lot of deer, maybe you're a smaller piece of land, your neighbors aren't harvesting, do for whatever reason, you got a lot of deer.

You need to realize that the manufacturer of seed supplier put plant, I'm just gonna use round numbers, 50 pounds break and 50% of those are really attractive soybeans. You know, uh, think of four or five species that are deer just gonna eat as soon as they pop out the ground. Right? All of a sudden you got half a stand out there and you get all the sun hitting in the ground and we are gonna pop up.

That's a given. So if you're planting a really, a blend that has roughly half the seeds really palatable, you wanna plant more than what they recommend. If they plant that, they say 50 pounds and there's no magic number here, but consider 75 pounds seeds, the [00:55:00] cheapest thing we do have a food pot, right? You.

If you buy a tractor, you win a drill, you bought the land, you lease, the land seed should be the cheapest thing in your whole operation. So a few extra pounds of seed should not be a deal killer. If you're planting a monoculture of clover, adding more seed may not help you much. Uh, but if you're planting blends, realize that those most P species are gonna be consumed before they mature and there's gonna be a gap that allows sundown.

So I often plant 25 to 50% more than what's printed on the bag. And I plant with, I try to plant, I'm like everyone else. I'm busy, I'm traveling. It's Turkey season this spring. That's a big detractive for me. But I try to plant when soil conditions are ideal for those just to blow out a ground and get ahead of the deer.

Because a lot of issues with weed pressure is just simply a lack of competition from the desired crops. So farmers learn long ago, if I go from planting 30 inch corn, the 15 inch corn, I don't necessarily get a bigger yield that's been shown, but I have [00:56:00] less weed pressure. . Some farmers now are being, because what drives corn production's photosynthesis.

And I think this plays into uh, uh, wildlife, so I'm not going off outta trouble, but a lot of farmers are now plant are not lot. Let's say 5% farmers are planting 60 inch row corn, five feet apart, same population. If they're planting, I'm these around number 20,000 kernels per acre and 15 inch rows, they're planting 20,000 kernels breaker, but in five foot rows.

And those corn stalk are just, you know, they're side by side in a row. But when you go this way, instead of having a neighbor over 15 or 30 inches, you're getting full sunshine. And sunshine is what grows corn production. That's why the outside rows of corn usually produce more then the inside rose of corn, cuz they're not competing for sun.

Mm-hmm. . So a food plotter could plant 60 inch row corn and then plant a blend of, you know, goody stuff in the middle. The nitrogen off the goody stuff will feed the corn cutting down on your fertilizer costs. , you've got brows all summer and then a [00:57:00] grain for the winter and a lot of product, not a lot.

Again, 5% of soil production. Farmers are really making massive improvements in their soil quality cuz they don't have that monoculture without giving up yield or their profit. They're actually becoming more crop cuz they don't need the weed suppression and they don't need the fertilizer by doing that.

So thinking out a box, trying some different techniques. And again, that was a practitioner, the guy that first did that that I read about was a retired engineer from John Deere at said, well I've been building these machines all my life. I wanna try farming, but I'm wanna do the same thing. and that's where 60 inch row, as far as I can tell, that's where 60 inch corn come from.

A practitioner being willing to try something different. Yeah, that's a great point. And you, you brought up a lot of really, really great points there. Um, losing my train of thought here cuz we got so many good topics here. I'm sorry. Uh uh No, it's, it's great. I, I love this. I I really love your, your enthusiasm over, over everything we're talking [00:58:00] about cuz it's, it's really, it's really important.

I think food plots are one of those things that, uh, a lot of us have this mindset that there's one way to do it. There's, there's one specific way, there's gonna be the best food plot for this property. And that's the way it is. And I think the truth of the matter is that food plots, just like anything else, are an experiment.

It's a, it's an ability to tinker and figure out what's gonna work good in your landscape and your soil and this and that. Um, the example, and I, I'd kind of like you to, to dive into real quick here, is there, there's a misconception that. With mixed blends. We talked about this earlier that you, certain species you can't mix.

Now you've obviously proved that with the, the, the blends that you've, you've planted on the, the proving grounds. Just real quick, can you explain to people why that might be misguided information based on maybe seeding rates or something along those lines? I think a lot of people start off saying you can't [00:59:00] mix seed varieties cuz grandpa didn't do it.

That's just, you know, common everywhere. And b, if you put 'em in your over the shoulder spin cedar, I mean, I've got a bunch of those. I plant my little small food plos with all the time. Or you got a no-till drill or a cone seed on the back of your tractor, whatever you're thinking, well I gotta calibrate for one size seed.

And I still hear that vicious rumor till today and in all my years of planting blends, experimenting, helping landowners, plant blends, whatever. I've had one example cause everyone says, well the seed will separate by size and you have a, you know, facetious, a strip of corn and strip of clover and a strip of turnips, strip of okra, whatever you got in there.

I've never seen that. And I, and I had it explained to me by again, another farmer, this makes sense. I never knew why. I just knew I'd dumped five bags of my drill and stirred up a bit, take off. And I never ended up with just small heavy seed like bras on the one end of the field. I've never seen that happen.

Ever. Mm-hmm. and I think different seeds, if you think about it and you go to garden [01:00:00] store and get four or five different species, seed put in your hand drops the different shapes and sizes, but they're different textures. Beans are pretty smooth. A lot of combine. Some people now plant beans and corn together and they separate 'em right in the combine and the corn is hard and slick.

So it goes down to cone faster and that shoots off into one bin and the beans are round and slower and little, little rougher edge and they shoot to another. That's the only separation process. . So when you have that, it's almost like a strata, a gravel in a creek bottom. You've got big and flat and rough.

Maybe a pumpkin seed. I plant vine plants in my food plots and the advantage of a vine isn't necessarily, boy dear, love pumpkins. Although they do, they don't eat the vines much, but that vine will seek. This is so cool. Again, this is God's plant. Hmm. It will seek to find sunlight and make a big old pumpkin leaf.

Well, guess what? If it's finding sunlight, weeds would've grew there unless that vine found it. Yeah. That's just so reason I put vine plants in my food plots is just [01:01:00] another simple, very inexpensive, uh, biological weed suppressor, cuz you're gonna have skips your, your drill missed a lick, you hit a rock and it bounced and nothing grew.

It just, it happens to everyone. Folks, we, and you said something earlier, I wanted to say food plotters have a bit of a challenge cuz the farmer's got, you know, a, a real expensive precision no-till drill that baby could plan on the moon. We're out here with probably, you know, not a hundred thousand drill planting food plots.

We're out here with something a lot less. It's great quality equipment for our mission, but it's not a precision computer guided planting instrument that's driven by ai, artificial intelligence. That's not what I or most food plotters use. I got a bag out here walking, you know? Yeah. Trying to trip on a rock or a stump.

Um, but that stratification now, in one time, it was last year, a good friend of mine, David Smith, uh, has a pretty big food plot operation, a good drill in the, in the mountains of Alabama. And David's a great farmer. He's to sell. Through the years, I've [01:02:00] learned a lot from David and he started planting blends for the first time.

I kept nudging on him a little bit. He, he was playing on monoculture, soybeans and weed or something like that. I started nudging on him and he had a, a bigger drill than most food plotters do. David, when David gets into something, he's like really into it, you know? So he had a big old, really wide drill and it started morning.

He's just dumping, I think he had like 20 bags seat or something. and he plants all day long just going up fields, cross creek, whatever. He is just going. And at the end of the day, those last sweep plots, all I have to say, were a little heavier on Nebraska's those small hard seeds that settled and, you know, and kind of stratified in there.

Only time I've ever seen it. And all my years, and with all the farmers I've worked with, AG farmers too, all the farmers, I've never seen that happen. David had a unique experience, but I, I've been doing this for decades, literally. I've never seen 'em stratify. And I think another thing you hear people complain about is that you see, you see competition between spurt and species.

I know one thing I've heard, like you, you can never mix, uh, cereal [01:03:00] green with Nebraska because they're gonna compete with each other. And, uh, I, I, I think one thing that I would say is appropriate, seeding rates are really important. You know, you work with great companies like Green Cover Seed that do a great job of making a blend that has appropriate seeding rates.

Do you have any other thoughts to that? No, I think you're exactly right. You know, Pin on Nebraska, two to four pounds is enough to seed an acre as a monoculture. So I see these blends that got five pound Nebraska's and 40 pounds of cereal rye, or you know, whatever it is in there. Well, of course there's gonna be competition.

You're stacking 'em in there like ducks at a duck shoot, you know. So, uh, uh, getting a blend appropriate doesn't have to be perfect. This is not precision farming, but getting it in the right range. Uh, and, and again, I like strata okra gets real tall, deer like okra, uh, and it's a great soil builder. Sun hemp can get seven, eight feet tall, depend on where you're growing it, but not very broad foot, you know, it doesn't have much of a footprint.

And the leaves on sun hemp are [01:04:00] about test about same as out as alfalfa. And the great thing about SUNY is kind of a woody stem, right? You don't want a whole field of suny, but it's just a good part of a summer blend. It's a woody stem, so deer don't eat the stem, so they don't kill it, and it keeps putting off new leaves on the side.

So it's pretty browse resistant. Not a hundred percent, but pretty browse resistant, more than a bean or a pea or something. So again, an appropriate blend. And a real hint is adding, you know, some pumpkins or watermelons or gords or some vine plant cucumbers. If you've got extra cucumber seed. And it's not about feeding a deer and you're not wasting anything, cuz what the deer don't consume just becomes slowly fertilizer for the next crop.

You're never wasting when you're growing and if it suppresses weeds and saves. You know, pick a number, 20, 40, $50 an acre of herbicide plus your Saturday, you know, plus wear and tear on your tractor and getting a flat tire cause you ran over an antler. That's a big savings. So a few pounds of a vine crop can really help.

Most summer food plot blends. It adds up in the long [01:05:00] run. Now another thing I've had questioned with me, and I'm sure you've had this question many times is a lot of people will say, well, planting two times a year, that gets expensive. And I, I just want to kind of focus the fall blend mostly on, um, and, and not worry about the, the summer blend.

Um, there's some, from my point of view, there's some, you know, positives to that. But what, what's your, what's your general response to people when, when they, when Yeah, they make that comment. I, you know, I'm fine if they wanna do that, but I think you got Sept if you leave it dormant all summer, weeds are gonna grow.

Right. Weeds are god's God does not like bare soil. Cuz again, we need, we need plants leaking carbon to feed the migrants. , that's a given. That's not gonna change from the Sera to here. Literally, it's not gonna change. So nature Hates a vacuum was published by really famous scientists back in the 18 hundreds, and that's still true to today.

That was volunteer by the way. But, um, so if you're not planting a summer crop, weeds are gonna grow and you're gonna dis or [01:06:00] herbicide or something to control those weeds before you plant your fall. Crop B weeds tend to be more of a monoculture. I got all pokeweed or poke a little bit of ragweed or whatever I want that good blend, feeding those different microbes to give me free fertilizer for the soil.

So I I I, I'm gonna plant, I'm gonna throw around number out of 50 bucks an acre, 70 bucks an acre, depend on what you're planting, port a seed, then you got some labor and you know, however you calculate your time, uh, diesel fuel, whatever, that's cheaper than buying fertilizer and herbicide seven days out a week.

Hmm. Those numbers are solid. Absolutely. So I'm gonna plant a blend. I'm gonna keep deer conditioned defeat there. That's kind of our goal is deer hunters. Right? I don't want my neighbors seeing them. I won't see, that's just being honest sounds so selfish. And it is selfish. That's what we wanna do. Yeah. Uh, so I'm gonna keep them conditioned.

I call that never cleaning the table. What really gets me is that guys got a beautiful summer crop, man. I mean, it's, it's, you know, magazine fixture out there. And then about four weeks before deer season, you disc [01:07:00] it up, which is the same as cleaning table. I shut the restaurant, we are closed here, we don't wanna feed you.

Please go feed on a neighbor's property. Mm-hmm. . And one is why it's deer all left right for deer season. But if you plant green, you've got stuff growing, you playing through it, there's still stuff to eat. It's dying, but there's stuff to eat while the new crop is coming on. And that one. has kept a lot of bucks home on a lot of properties.

I really like that. And we're, we're getting close to a point where I'd like to wrap this up with you. I have one more question for food plots, and then I got two other questions, uh, short answer questions that are, you know, completely different. But the last thing, you know, we, we all, the whole conversation we're talking about the things that I love, you know, farming, we're talking about heavy equipment no-till and stuff.

And a lot of us, you know, you, you'd mentioned about, uh, hand tools and doing stuff and I know that on proving grounds too, you're gonna be doing some stuff, more stuff with hand tools and stuff. Can you give any suggestions, um, from seed management, uh, planting management, [01:08:00] uh, residue management in this system with minimal tools and making it a success in the right, in the right?

Is there any changes? Sure. From to you to implement in. Yeah, that is a great question. And I love, I call 'em hide heels. Little small pot on the ridge. You can't get a tractor or two. I have a bunch of 'em. We probably should show more of what we do. Um, so there's a couple of rules in any farming, gardening or whatever.

One is real. It's real basic. Seed needs to make, needs to make contact with the soil. Soil. If you're using hand tools and you had a really thick fall crop, I mean to deer, rate it down. It got spring and it bolted cuz the deer eating native vegetation or the neighbor's bean filled or something. I mean, it's just dog hair thick.

You walk through it, broadcast and seed, a lot of the seed are not gonna reach the soil. So you can do this several things. Uh, you could use a herbicide. I choose not to. I tend to wait a little later and try to use a prescribed fire to remove much of that vegetation. It's, something's gonna be green and it won't burn.

And just take a, a [01:09:00] rake or a backpack blowing. You know, I've usually got timber around my food plots here. Just blow a the leaves outta the way on the edge of the food. Plots out your fire break. , I'm burning eighth acre. I can do it by myself real safely. You know, I, I light it on the, where the wind's blowing, so it's just backing across there.

Even old man like me can run that quick and stay up with it. And, and when you burn, remember you're removing, you're converting that top material to elements. The only thing going up near is nitrogen. The rest is falling to the ground and there's 30 tons plus the nitrogen above every acre. We breathe it, we just gotta convert it.

Something the plant can use. You should never pay for nitrogen. Plant some legumes. Um, but if you burn it, it makes a beautiful seed bed. But then don't stop there. You gotta wait till a rain's coming. Cuz if you broadcast your seed on that black surface and it's sunny out, you gotta roast those seeds before you ever germinate and rain.

Also, you know, raindrops falling about 30 miles an hour, it'll hit seed and help push it to the soil or splash a little dirt up on it and help cover it a little bit. So making sure seed hits the [01:10:00] soil. and you've got a rain coming real soon to germinate quick and grow. It's probably the best tip I can give anyone for using hand tools.

There's no magic here. Just make sure that seed is the soil. I really appreciate that. We, we've talked a lot about the release process and this food plot system and I, I think that really covers a, a really great point in, in pushing through this, this series of food plots. Um, so a again, I wanna thank you for your time, your and your, your conversation.

I got two questions for you real quick. So, um, if, uh, let, let's say, uh, God has bestowed a beautiful gift on you and you've got the, the opportunity to have the time and the resources to go on one adventure in creation. Where do you want to go? What do you wanna do? Is that a hunt or is that somewhere else, or what, what would that be?

If you could pick a, a, a selfish trip in creation? What timing? God must have divinely put that question in your mouth cuz. Uh, a good elk, honey, more is really expensive, right? [01:11:00] Yeah. I love elk hunting. I just love being at rock's when the leaves are changing. Elra, bugling and stretch your legs out a little bit.

I I, I really, I'm not a great elk hunter. I just love the experience. I have two daughters, Raleigh. He's 24. R a l e i g h Stands for dweller by the deer meadow Ray, r a e 21 Hebrew for dope. God, a deer impact everything in my life. God, first, family second, and my daughters let me wanna go to Alaska for salmon fishing and trip this summer.

Family Audi, none of us ever caught a salmon in our life, right? Plus we've been as a can of tuna or something like that, so I won't go on nail hunt. I will take my family salmon fish in. That much. That is really, really cool. Thank you for sharing that. And the last question, um, so you've, you've onto a new project with the proving grounds too.

I'm kind of curious in, in this point in your career, like when you think step back, like what is the biggest thing that you wanna, you wanna, if you wanna let your mark on something, what, what do you [01:12:00] want that mark to be on, on, on your career and everything? Well, I think my family's my legacy. Hopefully, uh, blessed that my kids are making way better choices at their age than I did at their age.

Uh, I, I feel really passionate about improving soil health. I, I'm a dear biologist by training and heart. I feel very passionate about helping people understand, because if we improve soil health, we improve water cycle. This is all well proven, not theory. We improve air cycles, cleaner water, cleaner air.

We have more nutrient packed food, uh, brief examples. Spinach right now on average has 40% less iron in it than just 10 or 20 years ago cuz of depleted soils. So we have better human health. So, uh, if I can educate some people about improving soul health, uh, I would feel that's a worthy life work. I really like that.

Um, hey, real quick, you know, uh, most people that I, I think would listen to this have probably filed you and kind of know where to find you. But just real quick, plug [01:13:00] everything you're doing where people can find you before we let you go. Yeah, I'm not good at that. Uh, if you search whatever platform you're using for growing Deere, you should find us just to, you know, buzzword growing Deere, uh, what, you know, YouTube, our channel, social media, whatever, uh, you're, find us.

Gotcha. Uh, Dr. Woods, thank you so much for your time today. Oh, thank you for the privilege. Thanks for being a great host, and I do hope our paths cross.