Yamaha Outdoors Tips — Planning Food Plots - Part II: Annuals Vs Perennials

Yamaha Outdoors Tips — Planning Food Plots - Part II: Annuals Vs Perennials

By Bob Humphrey

In the last installment we discussed methods for eliminating weeds that compete with your desired food plot species.  Now it’s time to start thinking about what you want to plant.  There are two general categories of plot plants: annuals and perennials.  Each has its pros and cons, and recommended uses.

As their name implies, annual plants germinate, grow and die all in a single year.  Examples include corn, soybeans, brassica, rye, wheat and some clovers.  Because they must be planted every year, there is more cost and labor required.  However, being annuals, they are ecologically predisposed to do a lot in a little time.  Rather than features that support long-term growth, like roots and rigid stems, most of their energy goes into producing succulent, nutritious growth - leaves and seeds.

As a result, they tend to produce higher and more nutritious yields.

Perennials, on the other hand, won’t persist for several years.  Popular food plot examples include alfalfa, chicory and clover.  They must establish a root and stem system to support them for several years and as a result, tend not to be as productive.  However, you don’t have to plant every year. 

The rapid growth and high yield of annuals also makes them a better choice for hunting plots.  You can usually plant them in mid to late summer and they’ll be at their most palatable and nutritious right about the time hunting season comes along.  Of course, this will vary depending on the species, and your climate zone.  

Perennial blends offer a better option for year-round feeding plots.  They provide less nutrition, but provide it over a longer time period.  The deer are less likely to throw caution to the wind trying to exploit the short term bounty of an annual plot.  But the feeding plots will offer important year-round nutrition, helping your land support more and healthier deer.

Plant them in the spring and they’ll provide year-round nutrition.  Food is usually abundant enough through the summer.  But late summer can be a very stressful time for deer, and supplemental feed from food plots can be extremely beneficial.  If mowed periodically, clover may reach its most nutritious, and attractive state in early fall, just about the time bow season arrives.  Deer will likely shift to annual plots moving into fall and winter.  The end of winter, going into spring is another nutritional bottleneck for deer.  Annual plants will come up early, and again provide critical nutrition for your deer herd.