It’s the end of July and the dog days of summer are upon us. Temperatures are in the 90’s with a heat index of 100 degrees, there is no better time to get ready for this upcoming deer season than now. With warm temperatures and heavy rains recently, our food plots placed growing in to full gear. These warm temperatures with good soil moisture has also sprouted the weed growth, and like most of you that planted your food plots this spring I’m sure that your also seeing a surge in weed growth in your plots also. The last couple of days I have been out to our property and checking on the food plots for any maintenance that may be needed. Below is what we found and what we did to improve the status of our plots so if you see similar problems, you can try it on your property.
The first plot that I checked on was our clover and alfalfa plot. This is a food plot the stretches along an old two track road. The clover is showing great growth and the alfalfa is not far behind. We do have some grass in spots where the clover is thin and the grass is beginning to take over. With clover plots you will want to keep the weeds at bay, because when a strong surge of weeds begin to take over it may choke out your clover. At this stage we have two options to establish a good clover and alfalfa plot. The first option is by mowing. You can mow the plot allowing the clover and alfalfa to regrow and get a jump on the weeds. The second option is to spray the weeds with a select herbicide. Do to the fact that our clover plot is still young yet and in its first year of growth we decided to spray with a select herbicide to control the grasses.
To control weeds on the clover plot we used "Poast Plus" select herbicide
The select herbicide that we used is called Poast Plus. This herbicide is safe to use on clover and alfalfa. It attacks the grasses without damaging the clover and alfalfa. Using a sprayer attached to my ATV with a seven foot boom, I mixed up 15 gallons of Poast Plus herbicide. With just a flip of a switch I was easily weeding our clover plot.
The sprayer that we are using is a Fimco 20 gallon tank with a seven foot spray coverage
The next plot I checked was our oat and pea plot. The oats are coming up nicely, however there was not a single pea plant to be found. The deer have already grazed all the peas out of the plot. Looking for another filler to replace the peas without tilling up the already established oats, we broadcasted a seeding of annual rye. The plan is to have the rye cover any bare spots in the plot to provide additional forage this fall. Like the oats, deer love to forage on the rye as it is still young and tender.
The oat plot was over seeded with annual rye and sprayed with 2,4-D herbicide
While seeding the annual rye in the oat plot I noticed a fair amount of broadleaf weeds growing in the plot. Just like the clover plot, we needed to control the weed growth to prevent our plots from being choked out. Also like the clover plot we opted to use a select herbicide. However unlike the clover plot you need to use herbicide that attacks broad leaf weeds and not grass. The herbicide of choice is 2,4-D. This herbicide is safe to use on crops such as oats, rye, wheat, corn, and sorghum. After waiting for the rye to begin its growth stage, we applied the 2,4-D to the oat plot.
The last food plot on our property was the upland plot. This plot consists of sorghum, sunflower, millet, and soybean. One problem that we ran into at the time of planting was that the sand hill cranes kept coming into the plots and digging up our seed. We did disk in the seed to make it harder for birds to pick the seed from the plots, however the seed of choice by the sand hill cranes were our sunflowers. We do have a fair amount of sunflowers that made it past germination; however they are all along the tall marsh grass at the east edge of the plot. The cranes seemed to only feed on the seed in the more open sections of the upland plot. After speaking with several farmers in the area about this problem I was informed about a product that the farmers call “crane be gone” it is a powder that is sprinkled and mixed into the seed prior to planting. They state that this powder makes the seed taste bad to the cranes to prevent them from eating all the seed. This is definitely a product that I will be looking into for next year’s planting. Despite problems with the cranes our millet and sorghum are doing great. We planted dwarf sorghum and the deer really love it this time of year. The sorghum has not yet begun to tassel and the deer are feeding on the sorghum leaves. There have been several new deer highways that our leading to the upland plot because of the dwarf sorghum.
We could not use a select herbicide on the upland plot due to both grass and broadleaf crops
We do have some weed growth in the upland plot, however since it is a mixed plot containing sorghum and sunflower, we are unable to apply a select herbicide to the plot. If you did you would have to choose which plant species you would want to keep. The reason is that if you went with a 2,4-D, your sorghum and millet would be safe from the spray, however it would kill off your sunflowers. Keep this in mind if you are going to be planting a mixed plot. If you know that you may have a problem with weeds, especially in a spring planting which is more susceptible to weeds than a fall planting.
Since we have been on the topic of weeds, we must also keep in mind that not all weeds are bad. Weeds can create an additional food source and provide a good habitat also in your food plots. An example of this is the common milk weed. This is a weed that we intentionally left in our plots.
Milkweed attracts pollinating insects to your property
The milk weed flowers at the top of its stem attracting butterflies and bees. With the recent hype about food plots some people plant food plots just for attracting deer. One must keep in mind that food plots are to improve habitat and food sources for all wildlife. So if you’re wondering how butterflies and bees play a role in wildlife management and habitat, these insects are your pollinators. Without them plants and fruits can’t cross pollinate to produce fruits or food for other wildlife, such as deer and turkeys. If you have apple trees on your property and have been noticing a smaller and smaller crop of apples, the lack of pollinators on your property may be the cause.
Everything in nature has a cause and effect. Mother Nature is a chain and if you cut at one link, it can and will affect the strength for the rest of the chain. We are all conservationists, we are also the protectors of nature, and by practicing responsible conservation on our own property we can all be the first step to a more balanced and healthy environment benefiting all wildlife, the deer as much as the bees.
By being a good conservationist we plant food plots to benefit all types of wildlife. To do this you need to look at what is being planted around you and how much acreage you are able to plant on your property. For example if your property is surrounded by corn fields, it really doesn’t benefit wildlife on your property to plant a half acre of corn. You will want to provide food sources that will attract wildlife to your property and will benefit wildlife throughout most of the year. The best way to describe this is what I call the buffet planting. On our property we are only able to plant two and a half acres of food plots. If I planted it all in corn, by mid fall majority of the corn would have been consumed by numerous animals and birds, leaving almost ten months of the year without a food source. On our two and a half acres we planted sorghum, millet, soybeans, sunflowers, annual rye, oats, clover, and alfalfa. By planting such a mixed bag of plants, wildlife will have numerous food sources throughout the year.
By using a select herbicide on half of our food plot acreage and leaving the other half of our plots to take its course with the weeds, we are able to provide a more diverse habitat for all wildlife on our property. We also learned that cranes are beautiful to watch but not beautiful to watch eating your seed that you just planted. We will definitely be trying a crane repellent on our seeds next year. Hopefully by sharing our stories we are able to provide you with ideas for your property.