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Failing Food Plots?

Failing Food Plots? Check for Hardpan!

Hardpan could be the culprit for your failing food plots

By ACES at Auburn University
(Alabama Cooperative Extensions System)

You might have noticed that some or all of your plots are not producing like they used to or that they seem to be prone to failure in the summer months. One factor that you might not have considered is hardpan.

Hardpan is a layer of soil that has become dense and compacted by heavy equipment, found from 2 to 10 inches below the topsoil. 

Hardpan restricts root development, reduces soils‚ ability to retain moisture in the long term and creates a field prone to flooding because moisture cannot pass through the nearly impermeable layer.

In just three years, a hardpan layer can develop. When this occurs, a crop will grow well until roots reach the hardpan and cannot grow any deeper. As temperatures rise and precipitation decreases, the plants will appear to suffer from drought-like conditions even if rainfalls are sufficient to maintain healthy wildlife plantings.

Test for hardpan by inserting a soil probe or metal rod directly into the soil.  The probe should insert fairly easily through uncompacted top soils.

If hardpan is present, it will be very noticeable, and the probe will require much more force to insert.

Continue pushing through the hardpan until you feel the resistance decrease. Stop and mark the depth at which you felt the probe break through to less resistance, as this is the bottom of the hardpan. 

This depth reading is important to know if you want to be successful at eliminating hardpan.

Eliminating hardpan requires the use of a subsoiling chisel plow and a tractor of at least 50 horsepower.

The plow should be set to the depth that you measured the hardpan with your soil probe. Do not set the plow deeper as this will only serve as a waste of fuel and provide no further benefit.

It is best to plow the entire field one way (lengthwise), and then go over it another time in the opposite direction (widthwise).

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