Food Plot

Annuals are varieties of plants that typically grow, produce seed, and die within the same growing season. For example, tomatoes and watermelons are annuals. They germinate, produce leaves, produce seed, and die all with one growing season. Growing seasons are defined when conditions are such that plants never go dormant or die. The cold winter, or exceptionally dry summers (or both) usually define growing seasons. To extend this definition further, annuals will only produce seeds during one season, then die. They may continue to bear seed (fruit) during that season, but they will not survive and bear fruit during another growing season.

Perennials are varieties of plants that germinate, grow, may or may not produce seed and go dormant at the end of the growing season. But unlike annuals, perennials will come back and continue growing during the next growing season.

Yield is best measured in tonnage per acre of digestible forage produced. For example, tot total tonnage of forage produced by a mature crop of wheat or oats per acre can be high. However, deer do not consumer mature wheat or oat stalks. Only the leafy portion of these crops is palatable to deer, and then only during their grass stage (early in their growth process). By comparison, during all stages of forage Brassica development, the plant is 80+% leaf. Hence, these plants produce a high tonnage per acre of digestible forage. By comparison, most clover varieties are primarily stem. The leaf portion of an individual clover plant rarely averages over 50% of its total mass. Stem material of most plants is very indigestible to deer. This is because the walls of stem cells are extremely thick – to help support the plant. This thick cell wall material is almost totally indigestible to deer. That’s’ why, in areas with a medium to high deer density, clover fields often appear as a field of stems, with no leaves. The deer have consumed the palatable clover leaves, but not the stems. The total yield of digestible forage from most clover varieties is tons less per acre than the forage Brassica varieties.

Palatability is a measure of animal feeding preference for one type of crop over another. Palatability has to do with the texture and taste of a plant. Both soil quality and plant maturity can affect forage’s palatability. For example, soybeans are extremely palatable when they first germinate. This is actually a negative characteristic of soybeans if they are planted for deer forage. Plants that are extremely palatable when they first germinate will be quickly consumed by deer – often to the point of being browsed to death. Most young tender plants cannot tolerate heavy browsing and will die as a consequence. Therefore, these early browsed plants only provide deer forage for a week or so. The total tonnage produced and the length of time the food plot serves to attract deer are extremely small. Ideally, a plant should be allowed to establish its root system and become browse tolerant (not harmed by constant browsing) before it becomes palatable. This characteristic has been bred into BioLogic forage Brassicas. Cold temperatures can also reduce a plant’s palatability. In field trials throughout the whitetail’s range, the BioLogic forage brassicas have proven to remain palatable after several frosts and freezes, long after most clover varieties had been “burned” by frost and are no longer available to deer.

Digestibility is a measure of the amount of forage that is ingested and retained in the body versus passed as scat. A plant’s digestibility is strongly affected by the species eating the plant. For example, cattle have different types of bacteria in their gut than deer. The bacterial in cattle can break down “rougher” forage than the normal bacteria in whitetails. This is why cattle can readily digest grass, but whitetails cannot. This is one of the major differences between the forage Brassicas and clover frequently planted for deer. The forage Brassicas were developed to be used as a deer forage. Deer readily digest the proteins and cell structure of these plants. The most common clover varieties were created for cattle and later marketed as deer forage. Because of their cell structure, deer cannot digest clover as readily as they can forage Brassicas. The New Zealand researchers have published extensively on the digestibility of forage Brassicas versus clover. Study after study has shown better antler development and weight gain for deer browsing Brassicas compared to deer feeding on various clover varieties.

To provide a sufficient amount of nutrients to white-tailed deer as a food plot crop, a forage must produce ample tonnage, it must be palatable and it must be digestible. This is why the advanced cultivars of Brassicas used in the Purina Mills blends are such excellent deer forages. They have all been bred specifically to include all the qualities of a great deer forage, including being extremely nutritious. The nutritional qualities of the Purina Mills forage Brassicas actually were present in the parent stock. Remember Brassicas are part of the herbal family of plants. In field trials throughout North America, Purina averaged 30% crude protein and several times higher in mineral content than any other forage commonly used in food plots.

Frost Seeding
Method of seeding used in the north whereby the seed is applied to the snow as it begins melting. The freeze/thaw process works the seed into the soil, resulting in a seed that eventually reaches the necessary planting depth of _” required for germination.

A large cylindrical piece of heavy equipment that is driven over the top of a freshly planted seed bed. This process produces greater seed-to-soil contact which increases seed germination.

Broadcast Spreader
A piece of equipment that, when filled with food plot seed, will disperse the seed onto the ground using a rotating spinner. The spinner is activated by simply turning the handle or from the rotating wheels.

Soil “pH” is a measure of the soil’s acidity based on a 0 to 14 point scale, with 7 being neutral. Values below 7.0 represent acidic soil and those above 7.0 indicate basic soil. An important consideration is that soil pH is measured and expressed in a logarithmic scale. This means a change in pH of one numeric unit represents a tenfold change in the sol’s acidity or basicity. For example, a pH of 6.0 is 10 times more acidic than a pH of 7.0 and a pH of 5.0 is 100 times more acidic than a pH of 7.0. The critical plant growth nutrients of fertilizer – phosphorus, potassium and calcium – “bond” to acidic elements, making them unavailable for plant use. Therefore, if the soil is acidic, only a portion of the fertilizer applied to a food plot will be available to the plants.

The most common form of agricultural lime is limestone rock ground almost to the consistency of powder. When applied to the soil, lime will neutralize the pH, allowing more fertilizer to be used by the food plot. Usually one or more tons of lime per acre must be applied to change the soil’s pH.

Organic or chemical compounds that, if absorbed by plants, will allow them to grow faster and more efficiently. The critical plant growth nutrients of fertilizer – phosphorus, potassium and calcium – “bond” to acidic elements in the soil, making them unavailable for plant use. Therefore, if the soil is acidic, only a portion of the fertilizer applied to a food plot will be available to the plants.

Planting Zone
A longitudinal region of the United States where most plant life experiences similar temperature, rainfall and length of sunlight. There is a Northern Planting Zone, Transitional Planting Zone and Southern Planting Zone. Most food plot forages will grow similarly when planted in the same planting zone.

A specific type of seed in the food plot blend. Food plots are made up of many types of cultivars or seed varieties, each with a unique purpose for the blend.

Disking is the use of a piece of equipment with round blades that turns the soil when pulled behind a tractor. It is the recommended way to prepare the seed bed, which includes turning of the soil after liming to raise the pH of acidic soil so fertilizer is more beneficial to the food plot. Disking is not a recommended method for covering food plot seeds as this process buries them too deep to allow for germination.

The moment when the live portion of the seed (germplasm) erupts from the outer shell and begins to grow. Proper soil temperature, planting depth and moisture activate germination.

The annual formation or growth of antler tissue in male whitetails.

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