Ahh, the food plot question heard round the world. What should I plant? It seems so simple, right? Shouldn’t there just be a magic bean that I can put in the ground that will make my deer huge and strangely careless about their life expectancies? Sadly this is not the case and that is why choosing the proper forage for food plots has become one of the most discussed and studied aspects of whitetail habitat management. So is there an easy answer to this question? No, there isn’t. But there are a few simple considerations that you need to keep in mind, that when thought through, should point you towards the right forage for your food plot needs. Read on for the answers to the most important question, being, how do I choose what to plant?
But first, let me offer you an alternative. Not in the mood for reading or you just really don’t like how I write? Feel free to take the short cut today and check out the video below, explaining a few guidleines for choosing what forage to plant in your food plots!
Now for the faithful few of you that made it down here…Lets take a look at 5 important factors you must consider when choosing the right forage to plant.
5 Factors To Consider When Choosing What To Plant In Your Food Plot:
1. PH level: The first factor that will force your decision of what to plant will be the soil quality and PH level at your food plot site. How can you determine your soil PH level? Get a soil test! Knowing your PH level will help you eliminate many forage options, and leave you with the few forage types that will have the best chances of prospering in your soil conditions. Most forages will thrive in PH levels between 6-7. But if you have a low PH level, consider Whitetail Institute’s Imperial Whitetail Extreme, select varieties of clover or cereal rye!
2. Equipment Available: What kind of food plot you can plant will greatly depend on the kind of equipment you have available to you. Some seeds will need to be drilled in, others can be broadcast. Some food plots will need a well prepared and tilled seed bed, others won’t. If you can’t get access to farming implements to work the land you’ll need to factor this into your forage decision. In most cases, you can assume that a well prepared/tilled seedbed is necessary, but some food plot companies have developed special blends that work particularly well in situations where no-till is the only option. For these situations consider Whitetails Institute’s No-Plow or Secret Spot, Evolved Harvest’s Easy Plot or Biologic’s Hot Spot. I can personally speak to the Whitetail Institute No-Plow, which I was very happy with last year.
3. Temperature: The region your food plot lies in and the temperatures there, will have a significant impact on the viability of certain forage types. Very often what may work in the North will not work in the South and vice versa. For example, if you live in northern Michigan and want a hunting plot, you must plant a forage that is cold tolerant in order to handle the northern winters. A good solution here might be rye or brassicas.
4. Rainfall: A second weather related factor to consider is rain. Certain forages are more able to handle drought conditions, while others need lots of rain. To get a better idea of the average rainfall in your area, check out weather.gov for historical rainfall numbers. Forages like durana clover, lablab and burnet can tolerate drought very well, while forages like Alfalfa might not be able to. On the other hand, many popular forages such as Imperial Clover from Whitetail Institute require a minimum of 30″ of rainfall a year.
5. Goals: Last and possibly most importantly, the goals for your food plot will be the final determining factor in what you should plant. Interested in planting a plot to hunt over in the late fall? You’ll want to focus on cool-season forages like rye, rape, ladino clover or wheat! On the other hand, if you’re looking to provide nutrition in the spring and summer to help with antler development you’ll want to focus on warm season forages like red clover, soybeans, alfalfa or lablab. By layering the previously mentioned factors over your goals, you’ll be left with a small set of possible forage types that are able to both flourish given your circumstances and meet your needs.
Any other factors you consider when making these forage decisions? Let us know!