Column Article for: Cajun Sportsman
Submitted: September 17, 2015
Alan Matherne, Marine Extension Agent; Coastal, Fisheries, & Wildlife Outreach
Terrebonne, Lafourche, and Assumption Parishes; Louisiana Sea Grant / LSU AgCenter
Cool season wildlife food plots
Fall is just around the corner … thank goodness! And if you’re a hunter or wildlife lover, this season may also bring thoughts of the upcoming cold fronts, cool weather, and days afield, and … how to enhance the experience.
By increasing concentrations of wildlife on natural areas through food plot plantings, the likelihood of encountering them are greatly increased. Also, by providing nutritious supplemental food plantings, the health and quality of wildlife can be enhanced.
So … what to plant and when? Here are some cool season, fall, food plot planting recommendations from Dr. Don Reed, the LSU AgCenter’s Wildlife Specialist.
Austrian Winter Peas
Sept. 1 – Nov. 1
Austrian winter peas, a cool season forage, rival warm season plantings of soybeans and cowpeas in their attractiveness to white-tailed deer. Inoculated seed should be drill planted at 40 pounds per acre or broadcast at 40 to 60 pounds per acre. These plantings are better adapted to heavy clay soils with moderate to heavy fertility. Fertilize at 250 pounds per acre with 0-14-14 and maintain a soil pH between 6.0 and 7.0.
Sept. 1 – Nov. 15
Crimson Clover is one of eight or more clovers that can be planted for deer in Louisiana to provide a high protein source in the winter. Clovers are generally planted in a mix with other cool season annuals. Clovers are rather expensively priced per pound, but this cost can usually be justified when one looks at the small amount of seed required to cover an area. Clovers are one of the items land managers can save money on by mixing chosen species themselves rather than buying premixed bags. In planting any variety, take care to maintain pH at recommended levels. Most clovers are very site specific. The big advantage of Crimson Clover is its high tolerance to acidic soils. With any species of clover chosen for planting, reseeding can be enhanced by disking or mowing in the fall after initial establishment. After soil disturbance, apply 0-20-20 fertilizer at the rate of 300 pounds per acre and maintain soil pH between 6.5 and 7.5. Seed should be inoculated and drill planted at 15 pounds per acre or broadcast at 20 pounds per acre.
Sept. 1 – Oct. 15
Subterranean Clover is a cool season annual legume that can tolerate shade quite well, making it an ideal choice for plantings on narrow logging roads and small loading decks in thinned timber stands. Fertilize at the rate of 200 pounds per acre of 0-20-20 and maintain soil pH between 6.5 and 7.0. Inoculated seed should be drill planted at the rate of 8 pounds per acre or broadcast at 15 pounds per acre.
White or Ladino Clover
Sept. 1 – Nov. 15
White Clover or Ladino Clover is another popular cool season annual legume that provides excellent high protein deer forage. Plantings can be established by seeding as little as 4 pounds per acre when drill planting and 5 to 6 pounds per acre when broadcast planting. Fertilize with 400 pounds per acre of 0-20-20 and maintain soil pH between 6.5 and 7.0. Ladino Clover varieties include Osceola, Tillman, Regal, Louisiana S1 and California.
Sept. 1- Nov. 15
Elbon rye is a small grain annual plant that is similar to wheat and heavily used by deer in its early growth stages. It is very cold tolerant and can survive fairly frigid conditions later in the year although as it matures it loses a portion of its protein levels. Plantings established in the fall begin to die back the following summer. Elbon rye should be drilled or broadcast at the rate of 80 pounds per acre with 200 pounds per acre of a balanced fertilizer blend such as 13-13-13 applied at planting. Soil pH should be maintained between 5.6 and 6.5. Elbon rye makes its best growth on well-drained, light-textured soils.
Sept. 1 – Nov. 1
Oats are a cool season annual grain that has the disadvantage of being less cold tolerant than rye or wheat. Established plantings are browsed heavily by deer in their early growth stages. Seed should be drilled or broadcast at 80 pounds per acre, and 200 pounds per acre of 13-13-13 should be applied at planting. Top dressing with a blend of ammonia nitrate fertilizer such as 34-0-0 in January or February is recommended to give added growth later in the year. Maintain soil pH between 5.5 and 6.5.
Sept. 1 – Nov. 1
Ryegrass is able to grow under such a wide range of soil and light conditions that it is one of the most common plantings to establish for white-tailed deer either planted alone or more often as part of a mix. It is a cool season annual grass, but repeated stands can be achieved by allowing plantings from the previous year to mature and go to seed. Disking such areas the following fall will almost always show some ryegrass returning. Seed can be drilled or broadcast at the rate of 20 pounds per acre. Fertilize at planting with 250 pounds per acre of 13-13-13 followed by top dressing with 150 pounds per acre of 34-0-0. Ryegrass grows best in soils maintained at a pH of 6.0.
Sept. 1 – Nov. 1
Wheat is a cool season annual small grain that is widely used by deer in the early stages of growth. It, along with ryegrass, is a staple food plot item that represents some of the most used food plot ingredients for white-tailed deer. Establish plantings by broadcasting seed at the rate of 80 pounds per acre. Fertilize at planting with 200 pounds per acre of 13-13-13 and top dress later in the year with 150 to 200 pounds per acre of 34-0-0. Soil pH should be maintained between 5.5 and 6.5.
Soil tests of the area should be performed before planting and it is recommended that all seed be lightly covered with soil after planting to encourage increased germination success.
Much more information concerning planting and managing food plots for wildlife is available on the LSU AgCenter’s website at LSUAgCenter.com. Just search for food plots and see what you can find. Also, recommended specific publications that you should find helpful and are available on the site include: Food Plot Plantings for White-tailed Deer in Louisiana, Concepts of Soil Fertility for Hunter Food Plots, and Crops for Wildlife Plantings Recommendations, Establishment & Management.
Finally, if you use social media and are interested in staying up-to-date on wildlife issues, you may want to consider joining our Louisiana Wildlife, Bushcraft, & Survival Facebook group. We post occasional articles and links about wildlife here. It’s also a good place to get questions answered and to join in discussions.
Alan Matherne is the Louisiana Sea Grant / LSU AgCenter Marine Extension Agent specializing in Coastal, Fisheries, & Wildlife Outreach for Terrebonne, Lafourche, and Assumption parishes. He can be contacted at 985-873-6495 or email@example.com. His articles and blogs are posted at bayoulog.com. You can “Friend” him on Facebook at facebook.com/alan.matherne and follow his “Tweets” on Twitter at twitter.com/amatherne.