August and September are the months most hunters think about planting food plots. But with this recession and the cost of fertilizer, fuel and seed increasing, it has become questionable to many hunters if they can afford to plant. You will find that most hunters and hunting clubs go out and plant the traditional wheat, oats, or whatever the man at the seed store recommended. Once planted, they then will hunt over it and leave it until next season to start the process over again. This is fine if you want to keep wasting your money on fuel and fertilizer over and over again to plant the same plot. I want to show you how you can make what you plant work for you to save time and money. Simply by putting some thought into what you plant and how you plant it.
First you have the throw all the old thinking of wheat and oats out the window and start thinking long term by planting Vita-Rack seed blends in your food plots. Vita-Rack Velvet Clover makes a great choice of forage for the deer and provides year-round food when others are not available. Now here is the trick; you want to plant half your plots in Vita-Rack Velvet Clover to start and the others in Vita-Rack Winter Forage. We are going to set up a crop rotation program on a small scale on your hunting property. This has been done for years and years by farmers with cotton, corn and soybeans and it will work for your plantings as well.
Let’s start with the basics. What is a crop rotation? A crop rotation is a method of planning which crops to plant in certain locations to utilize the benefits the plants provide for future crops. This is accomplished by planting plants called legumes like, Vita-Rack Velvet Clover and Vita-Rack Booming Beans, which pull nitrogen from the atmosphere and puts it into the soil through a fixation process. The legumes create small nodes on the roots that contain the fixated nitrogen that can be used by other plants in the future. Nitrogen, which is the first element of a fertilizer formulation (N-P-K) is essential for plant growth and jumpstarts germination in non-legume plants such as grasses and it is also used in getting Vita-Rack Winter Forage growing strong.
Commercial nitrogen fertilizer comes in the form of Urea and Ammonia Nitrate which is expensive and can be corrosive to equipment if prolonged exposure occurs. The benefit of using the rotation system is that you would not have to apply a nitrogen fertilizer every time you plant your food plots because it is put into the soil every growing season by the Vita-Rack Velvet Clover and Vita-Rack Booming Beans. Vita-Rack Velvet Clover itself fixates up to 150 pounds of nitrogen annually. When the rotation is used, a cost savings up to 45% can be reached on fertilizer alone. In the summer of 2009, the savings was approximately $41 an acre, not to mention the savings in fuel and time due to less weight in fertilizer to be distributed on the acreage.
A simple example of a crop rotation would have two food plot fields. One would have Vita-Rack Velvet Clover, a perennial legume blend. The second field would have annuals such as Vita-Rack Booming Beans planted in the spring and Vita-Rack Winter Forage planted in the fall. The food plot with the Vita-Rack Velvet Clover can be either frost seeded in February or seeded on a prepared seedbed in March or October depending on your planting zone. This field would remain in Vita-Rack Velvet Clover for three growing seasons, during that time it will accumulate nitrogen which will act as a food source.
One of the benefits from having the Vita-Rack Velvet Clover in for the three seasons is that it will provide a year-round food source for the deer. This food source is necessary when other vegetation is not growing in the late winter and early spring months. Another benefit is when the other plot is being planted and bare of plant life, there is still a food source to keep deer on the property. After the three growing seasons the Vita-Rack Velvet Clover will be tilled under to make way for the Vita-Rack Winter Forage.
The second field will be planted seasonally with annuals. First in the spring, Vita-Rack Booming Beans should be planted to fixate nitrogen and provide literally tons of green leafy forage for wildlife needed for the spring and high dry summer months. The Vita-Rack Booming Beans also provide a large amount of cover in the field for turkeys and upland birds. When August comes around, it will be time to till under the Vita-Rack Booming Beans and plant the Vita-Rack Winter Forage. Vita-Rack Winter Forage provides an excellent protein source to keep deer going through the tough winter months following the Rut.
The following spring the Vita- Rack Booming Beans would be planted again and followed by Vita-Rack Winter Forage for a total of three annual rotations. After the third fall, Vita-Rack Winter Forage is planted, the rotation will change and Vita-Rack Velvet Clover will be planted in its place the following spring. The original Vita-Rack Velvet Clover will become Vita-Rack Winter Forage the following fall. Once the Vita-Rack Velvet Clover is established in the new location, simply allow the Vita-Rack Velvet Clover to grow for three years and rotate out as done before.
The first year the Vita-Rack Winter Forage are planted, the initial fertilizer application will require a higher amount of nitrogen fertilizer than any other, year but after that application all three blends will use the same low nitrogen blend. For example, the Vita-Rack Winter Forage will take an initial 300 pound per acre mix of 17-17-17, then after that all three blends will use the same fertilizer blend of 0-20-20 at 300 pounds per acre as long as the rotation is in effect. The great thing about this is that there will be no need to switch fertilizers from one plot to the other and there is no need to change setting on the fertilizer spreader that is being used making it simple and effective in producing a viable food plot.
Once the food plots are up and growing, keep an eye on the food plots to look for grass weeds that can hinder the growth of your food plots. A common concern is over which chemical to use. The reason for this is if the wrong type of herbicide chemical is applied to the plot it could either extremely damage the plants or even kill them. The great thing about the rotational system is that all the seed blends are Poast Plus grass herbicide compatible, which reduces the risk of unwanted crop damage and creating a more productive food plot. With these seed blends being grass herbicide tolerant, there is no need to recalibrate the spraying equipment for a different herbicide or drain and mix a different chemical for separate seed blend making it more time efficient and less expensive to do. Plus, you can use 2,4D-B on the broadleaf weeds if they become a problem in your Vita- Rack Velvet Clover and Vita-Rack Booming Beans.
In the Vita- Rack Velvet Clover, your will still need to mow it when it gets to 12 to 15 inches tall, mow it to about 6 to 8 inches. Mowing will also help with weed control along with keeping your Vita- Rack Velvet Clover growing new tender growth.
This method of crop rotation is nothing new. Farmers have used it for years and years. By putting this practice in you food plot regime you can help save time and the most important factor you can save is money.