Choosing the Right Seeds For Your Food Plot
To choose plants for a wild life food plot consider the unique features of your area. If food is abundant but limited mostly to corn and soybeans, choose different crops that will add variety to the diet of game animals and birds. In wilder areas, perennials and fruit trees, as well as grains and legumes can provide important year round forage. Always pick varieties that are hardy in your planting zone. Ask your County Extension Agent for advice about what works best in your area.
If your goal is to attract whitetail deer, corn, alfalfa and clover are certainly effective. While corn supports many other species such as turkey, squirrel and quail, alfalfa and clover are mainly important to deer. A diverse planting that includes buckwheat, sunflowers and sorghum can attract more game animals, birds and even songbirds. Fence rows can be permanently planted with hardy perennials like crab apple, hawthorn and honeysuckle that will provide forage and cover for many species.
Selecting companion crops that mature at different times creates long lasting forage and encourages permanent wildlife populations. Cowpeas and clover can be planted at the same time, with cowpeas maturing and dying back while clover is still flourishing. Seeding red clover and ladino clover planted with wheat and rye can establish high protein perennial legumes surviving long past the annual grain. Chicory planted with clover and wheat will survive the winter and become important spring forage for deer.
Brassicas like rapeseed, kale and turnips can be an important winter food for deer, but deer may not graze these plants heavily until they've been available for several years. Brassicas are very winter hardy, staying green well past the first frost dates and putting up new growth early in the growing season. Deer will graze on turnip bulbs when green growth is unavailable. Crab apples often stay out of reach on the trees until late winter, falling to the ground when other food is in short supply.
Local conservation departments and wildlife organizations may offer seed mixtures chosen specially for your area. If you mix your own be sure to buy certified seed. Avoid old seed or combine run seed, old seed will have a low germination rate and combine run seed may contain unwanted varieties and weeds. Select assortments of plants that won't draw unwanted animals to your land. Chufas, a type of bunch grass that grows peanut-like tubers, is excellent forage for turkeys, but is also a favorite of wild hogs. If feral pigs are a problem in your area choose a different crop.