Yamaha Outdoors Tips — Planning Food Plots - Part I: Beating the Competition
By Bob Humphrey
It’s still the middle of winter. Food plot season is a couple months away but it’s not too early to start planning before you start planting.
Building food plots involves a substantial investment of time and money. You buy the land and then pay taxes on it so you’ll have a place to hunt. You buy equipment, and ATV and implements to work the ground. Then you purchase and apply minerals and seed to attract and hold more deer. It behooves you to do all you can to ensure you realize the greatest return on your investment.
One of the most important steps toward that end is eliminating the competition. Any vegetation other than what you plant only serves as competition for space, sunlight and nutrition, and thus reduces the effectiveness of your plot. You need to remove all undesirable plants.
One way is mechanical treatment. Turning over the ground using some type of disc harrow or tiller will aerate the soil and kill some of the existing plant matter. There are both tillers and disc harrows available for use with ATVs. Tillers can be more aggressive; but are also more expensive. Harrows provide a more economical option, and may be a better choice for cutting new ground.
Mechanical treatment will kill some of the existing unwanted weedy competition. However, it won’t knock down everything. And many of the more aggressive species will quickly recover and repopulate. This usually occurs just about the time your newly-planted seed crop is germinating. Because they’re native (or naturalized), more aggressive and already established, weeds usually out-compete food plot species.
Chemical treatment is a much more effective means for eliminating competition. Because it’s specific, it will kill undesirable species but won’t harm your crop. The most common type are glycophosphates like Round-Up and its generic substitutes. They are systemic, which means plants take them up through their vascular system; so they kill the entire plant. Not just the above-ground growth.
Your best option is to apply both treatments. Start with a chemical application; then allow two weeks for it to take effect. Then, turn over the soil. This will destroy any residual vegetation, as well as turning dead organic matter back into the soil to increase the nutrient base. Now you can apply your minerals, sew your seeds and pray for rain.