Outdoors: A few reasons fall food plots fail


Retrieve a few samples of soil in and around the plot for soil testing to determine the soil needs.

Each fall prior to hunting season, hunters and landowners set out to plant food plots. In recent years the practice has become popular. More and more of these greenfields are dotting the landscape across hunting lands. Deer hunters have realized the importance of providing quality food for deer and other wildlife.

Despite the best efforts of deer hunters and landowners, food plots fail. Certain factors can’t be controlled, like the weather/rainfall, but there are steps deer managers can take to avoid these failures and get the deer season started in the right direction.

Here are several reasons why food plots fail:

Did not perform a soil test

A soil test is probably the single most important factor in preventing food plot failure. The results of a soil test can save deer managers money and heartache in the long run. The test will indicate the amount of fertilizer and lime needed for optimum plant growth.

“The best seed planted will not produce healthy plants without the proper nutrients,” said Daniel Bumgarner of Wildlife Management Solutions (WMS). “Seed need balanced soil conditions to be able to use the available nutrients and a soil test will tell you exactly what your soil needs.”

Planting inferior seed

Another reason food plots fail is planting inferior seed. Not all seeds are created equal. Poor quality seeds will result in reduced germination and thereby less forage available in the food plot.

“Quality seeds and seed blends will ensure good germination,” Bumgarner said. “With good seed germination the plants have the best chance for healthy growth.”

Also, proper seed varieties for your area are important. Specific plant types will grow better in certain soil types. The folks at WMS can help deer hunters and land managers select the best seed and blends for their area of the state.

Overseeding plots

In some cases, hunters and land managers will try to compensate for poor quality seed by overseeding their food plots. Or they could overseed with quality seed thinking more is better. But, in either case they are setting up their plots for failure.

“A proper seeding rate will result in the best plant growth for the variety of seed you have planted,” said Bumgarner.

Bumgarner added that too much seed in a plot will have the plants consuming all the nutrients in the soil. The plants will suffer and not reach their full potential.

Planting wrong type of seed

The wrong type of seed or forage in a plot with good soil can fail. Certain varieties of forage may not grow well in all locations across the state. Certain varieties of wheat and oats are not cold tolerant. An early cold snap in some locations can have the plot turning yellow and not be attractive to deer.

On the other hand, brassicas, like turnips and radishes, need cold weather to reach their optimum attraction. A frosty morning on the leaves of brassicas helps increase the sugar content.  Kale and rape can last well into the winter months even under below freezing temperatures.

Charles Johnson is the Star’s outdoor editor. You can reach Charles at charjohn@cableone.net