Pine needles on perennial plots

Discussion in 'Food Plots for Wildlife' started by DIY, Jan 1, 2019.

  1. DIY

    DIY Member

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    Location:
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    Our lease is on a pine plantation and I have several small 1/8 - 1/2 acre food plots on some logging decks that border pines and some cut rows in the pines. Most of these are perennial plots with clover and chicory. Some also have winter rye growing that I broadcast in the fall. My question is whether it's worth the effort to clear the annual pine needle drop that lands on these plots or just let the clover, chicory and winter rye grow up through the needles in the spring. I've no idea whether the needles have a positive, negative or neutral affect on the plots.

    I'm sure there are others who plant perennial clover in plots that get a pine needle drop. Do you spend any time removing the needles, or just let them lay?
     
  2. MarkDarvin

    MarkDarvin Well-Known Member

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    I'd leave them lay. Good source of carbon in your clover plot.
     
  3. Doe Shooter

    Doe Shooter Active Member

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    Location:
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    Pine needles are great if you want to grow blueberries. Acidic as you can get. I would think your ground would be in need of a s**t ton of lime. But I've wrong before. How bout it guys?
     
  4. DIY

    DIY Member

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    I did a little online research on this and it looks like fallen pine needles actually have a negligible effect on soil pH. I was surprised to learn this. Evidently by the time they are brown and decomposing their pH is usually between 6.0 - 6.5, and the decomposition of plant material has a very minor impact on soil pH.

    With that being the case, it seems the best move is to leave them lay and let them serve as a mulch for the clover and chicory.
     
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  5. Doe Shooter

    Doe Shooter Active Member

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    I learn something new everyday. Thanks
     
  6. Semisane

    Semisane Active Member

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    DIY, I have several small plots like yours - bordered by pines. Over the years I've realized it's not the pine needles that limit plot growth. It's the root system of the bordering trees sucking up the moisture. When I killed the trees immediately bordering the plots with the "drill & squirt" method those little plots doubled in productivity.
     
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  7. Chipdasqrrl

    Chipdasqrrl Active Member

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    Location:
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    About the soil ph thing.. I think people associate pine needles with acidic soil because pines are often found growing in poor soil conditions where other trees don’t grow very well... in other words, the soil isn’t acidic because of the pines, the pines are there because the soil is acidic


    Sent from my iPhone using Deer Hunter Forum
     
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  8. Mennoniteman

    Mennoniteman Well-Known Member

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    Location:
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    In the north the leaf and pine needle drop over winter can get to the point that they form a mat that chokes the perennial clover, if that happens it needs to be run over in early spring with a tined rake type of implement that allows the plants to get the sun and air that they need to grow up through the needles. This is also a good time to frost seed some more clover into the plot. Otherwise, pine needles are a mulching asset that helps retain moisture and raise the soil OM levels.
     
  9. Mennoniteman

    Mennoniteman Well-Known Member

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    He's on a lease, which limits tree removal.
     
  10. MarkDarvin

    MarkDarvin Well-Known Member

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    Exactly. I caught on to that concept a few years back. What is growing above ground is an indicator of what is going on below ground.

    Ferns, horsetail - acidic soil
    Sedge, willow, black spruce, balsam fir, canary grass - wet soil
    Dandelions, chicory, thistle - compacted soil
    clover, wild peas, vetch - nitrogen depleted soil
    cocklebur - calcium deficient soil

    And the list goes on. This is why clover plots get taken over by grass, and grass gets taken over by clover. One species takes over due to the advantage present in the soil. That advantage may or may not ever burn itself out.

    https://www.gardeningknowhow.com/lawn-care/lgen/what-the-weeds-in-your-lawn-are-telling-you.htm
     
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  11. MarkDarvin

    MarkDarvin Well-Known Member

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    If you're really wondering whether you've got a problem, I'd do a pH-only soil test right where the needles are, and another in the center or furthest point from the pine needles. See if you get different results.
     
  12. FarmerD

    FarmerD Active Member

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    Location:
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    We're on leased Pine properties as well and just leave them lay. Never seemed to be a major problem. We have perennial clover and the bare spots are where we just planted a fall blend.


    Second plot on the 80.JPG
     
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  13. Deadeye

    Deadeye Active Member

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    Location:
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    Good Topic and Info to know, as many of us here in the South have to deal with hunting Pine Plantations.
     
  14. Mennoniteman

    Mennoniteman Well-Known Member

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    Location:
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    I agree with everything you said. To add to the clover vs grass cycle that you described so well; a lot of food plots, including some of mine, have good soil with high nitrogen, but the desired crop is clover, which will tend to get choked out by grass if left to itself.
    That nitrogen fed grass is not hard to get rid of, just don't use any nitrogen fertilizer and do a timely application of clethodim in the spring right when the grass is 3" high, then a second application in midsummer several weeks after mowing. One season of this treatment gives me many years of almost maintenance free mostly grass free clover.
    My forester just commented that my one 1/2 acre shooting plot has the nicest ladino clover that he's ever seen, and I haven't done anything to it for several years, after utilizing the above grass control plan.
    I get out to see a lot of deer plots, and a lot of them have way too much grass growing for ideal deer food, which tells me that lot of people just don't know that grass is not a deer food, but it is easy to get rid of.
     
  15. MarkDarvin

    MarkDarvin Well-Known Member

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    I had some really nice clover growing on some trails a couple years back. I got away from managing that as other projects came up. It has since been taken over by grass. I admit, I'm not very confident in my ability to mix cleth for a clover application. I have read that book multiple times, and I cannot come up with a simple hand sprayer mixing rate. I'd be using a 3 gallon hand sprayer, but have no clue how many ounces per gallon to use.

    Now that you mention this, I'd like to try rescuing that clover this spring with a cleth application and get back on managing it.
     
  16. Drycreek

    Drycreek Well-Known Member

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    Mark, I've used .5 oz of Cleth per gallon for years now in my 60 gallon sprayer and my 25 gallon sprayer neither of which I've ever attempted to "calibrate". I just spray until wet and it works out for me. Clover is pretty dang tough, the worst that could happen is you don't get a good kill on the grass.
     
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  17. MarkDarvin

    MarkDarvin Well-Known Member

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    Good good. Do you use a crop oil or NIS with it? I've seen both recommended depending on what yer spraying.
     
  18. FarmerD

    FarmerD Active Member

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    I'm at the point of just using a weed wiper on my clover plots, with a 50/50 solution of glyphosate. I'm now approaching 30 plots on 6 properties and don't have to haul water, which is a big benefit.

    Clethodim Hand sprayer rates.JPG
     
  19. Mennoniteman

    Mennoniteman Well-Known Member

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    In my hand sprayer I go with 1 oz per gallon, which is stronger than the max .65 recommended, but when I'm using the hand sprayer I'm doing very selective spraying because I want some tough grasses dead, and try to get as little as possible on the clover. I don't use crop oil with my hand sprayer because of the stronger mix, as it will burn the clover if I get too much on. I do use 16 oz crop oil to 25 gallons of water with my boom sprayer, and 6 to 10 oz of clethodim per acre. I also add 4.25 oz of AMS to 25 gallons of water in the tank mix. 25 gallons covers 1-2 acres depending on ground speed, which I set according to the chemical products being used. Some chemicals like clethodim need more water per acre to get good results. Glyphosate would be an example of a crop that works well with less water per acre, I can cover 2 acres with 25 gallons when applying gly and get good results.
     
    Last edited: Jan 7, 2019
  20. Drycreek

    Drycreek Well-Known Member

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    Mark, I think Mennonite answered that question.
     

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