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Food Plot Calculations and Calculators

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Here are the steps, with examples, for correctly adding the proper fertilizer for your food plot.

  1. Submit a soil sample to a university extension office in your state. You can find a testing center by doing an internet search with the words soil test your-state. For example, to find a place to get a soil test in Wisconsin, search for soil test wisconsin.
  2. Measure your food plot and find the area in either square feet or acres, depending on what units your soil test uses.. See example below.
  3. Calculate the amount of each nutrient you need. See examples below.
  4. Calculate the amount of each type of fertilizer you need. See example below. Broadcast evenly and till into your soil.

Getting a Good Soil Sample

Getting a good sample consists of getting about 5 different small samples from you plot and mixing them into one representative sample. This assumes that your plot is fairly uniform in soil type. If there is wide variation, you will want a separate test done for each area. To get a small sample, you can use a 6" garden trowel (or spade) to obtain a 6" deep sample and only use the center core, as shown below - I use a table knife to help obtain this. Use the trowel to sample different areas and combine into a single representative sample. food plot sample

Measuring Your Food Plot

Measuring your food plot to get an approximate area can be done very quickly by pacing off the distance, using each pace to represent 1 yard. Then input those measurements into the calculators below to find the area in acres and/or in square feet. Note that the calculators below work with rectangular areas. If you have an irregular shape, you will have to divide it up into rectangular regions and add the areas.

Enter The Width of Your Food Plot in Yards:

Enter The Length of Your Food Plot in Yards:

Your Food Plot is Acres in Size

Enter The Width of Your Food Plot in Yards:

Enter The Length of Your Food Plot in Yards:

Your Food Plot is Square Feet in Size

Your Food Plot is Hundred-Square-Feet Units in Size

Your Food Plot is Thousand-Square-Feet Units in Size

Finding Your Area in Square Feet or Acresfood plot

Example: In the irregular plot shown on the right, the area is split up into two rectangular regions that measure off at 20 yds by 35 yds and 25 by 18 yds. Placing these measurements in the calculators above results in 0.145 acres and 0.093 acres. This results in a total of 0.145 + 0.093 = 0.238 acres of plot. Also, if we use the bottom calculator we get 6300 sq ft and 4050 sq ft for a total of 6300 + 4050 = 10350 sq ft. Also, if you needed hundred square foot units, you would get 103.5 hundred square foot units and if you needed thousand square foot units you would get 10.35 thousand square foot units. I include hundred square foot and thousand square foot units because some soil tests recommend fertilizer pounds per hundred square feet or per thousand square feet. You should give the calculators a try to make sure you are getting the same numbers in this example.

Calculate Pounds of Lime or Fertilizer

My actual plot of winter rye was only 6 yds by 25 yds. This resulted in 1350 square feet or 13.5 hundred square foot units. My soil test results are shown below and recommendations are given per hundred square feet. If your soil test has recommended amounts per acre, use the top calculator to find your total acres and multiply by this value.

I multiply 13.5 by the recommended amounts. This results in

13.5 x 0.10 = 1.35 pounds of Nitrogen
13.5 x 0.5 = 6.75 pounds of Phosphorous over 2 years, so only about 3.4 pounds per year
13.5 x 0.1 = 1.35 pounds of Potassium (commonly known as Potash)
No Lime Required - My pH was tested at 5.7, which is acceptable for winter rye

Calculate Fertilizer & Lime Amounts

Fertilizers are specified with a 3-number system. The first number specifies percentage of Nitrogen, the second number specifies percentage of Phosphorous, and the 3rd number specifies the percentage of Potassium. For example, a 10-12-15 fertilizer would mean that 10% by weight is Nitrogen, 12% by weight is Phosphorous, and 15% by weight is Potassium. Thus, 100 pounds of this 10-12-15 fertilizer would contain 10 pounds of Nitrogen, 12 pounds of Phosphorous, and 15 pounds of Potassium. The other 63 pounds not accounted for would be inert filler materials. In another example, a 45-0-0 fertilizer would be 45% Nitrogen with no Phosphorous nor Potassium. Find a feed store that sells a wide variety of fertilizers by the pound - otherwise, any farmer's supply store will sell large bags of nitrogen-only, phosphorous-only, or potassium-only (potash) fertilizers.

In my case, I need 1.35 pounds of Nitrogen, so I found a 46-0-0 fertilizer and since 46% of my fertilizer is Nitrogen, and we need 46% of the weight to make up 1.35 pounds of Nitrogen, the amount of fertilizer needed is 1.35 divided by 0.46 or 2.93 pounds of the 46-0-0 fertilizer.

To provide the 3.4 pounds of Phosphorous, I found a 0-46-0 fertilizer and in a similar manner, divided 3.4 by 0.46 to get 7.39 pounds of the 0-46-0 fertilizer.

To provide the 1.35 pounds of Potassium, I found a 0-0-60 fertilizer and divided 1.35 by 0.60 to get 2.25 pounds of 0-0-60 fertilizer.

So just remember: Divide the pounds needed by the fertilizer percentage number where the percentage number is a decimal value.

I then broadcast these amounts of fertilizer as evenly as possible and tilled into the soil to about 6 inches down.

For lime, see the table below from University of California Extension Office . Multiply the amounts given by 2000 pounds per ton. Then multiply by your acres.

lime requirements

I did not need any lime for my winter rye plot but I will provide this example: If you have a 0.25 acre plot on sandy loam soil and you need to raise the pH from 5.5 to 6.5, multiply 1.3 tons by 2000 to get 2600 pounds of lime per acre. Then multiply by 0.25 acres to get 650 pounds of lime. Note that often, like in my small winter rye plot, your soil test will give exact per acre recommendations on lime based on what you will be planting. It is best to work the lime in as early as possible, but if needed, you can till in with your fertilizer.

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Hope this page helps you properly fertilize your deer hunting food plot!


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