Conservation // 5 min Read

Winter Food Plots

Written by Aaron Palmieri

Oct 5, 2020

Justin Hardy, the Conservancy land & wildlife manager, has been hard at work studying and implementing new techniques to improve the quality of the Conservancy’s food plots. The 2020 winter season has seen a "no-till" method adopted for planting this year’s food plots. No-till leaves the ground undisturbed which keeps the soil biome from being reset as it would with traditional tilling practices. This undisturbed microorganism community in turn has a positive impact on the germination and growth of the seeds the Conservancy sows.

The new method has certainly been a case of “the proof is in the pudding,” as the winter food plots formed a lush green blanket of vegetation within a one-week period.

“What did the Conservancy plant?” you may ask. For the 2020 winter planting, Justin adapted the seed blend to coincide with the new no-till method. Apache arrow-leaf clover and crimson clover were sowed at each location. These clovers will provide additional protein as well as accumulate nitrogen in the soil thanks to the rhizobia relationship that all legumes share.

These fields also received a layer of naked oats which quickly produces forage for wildlife as the clover and other seeds grow. The oats will survive through the winter to produce seed heads during the summer which provides another food source for wildlife.

The last crop sowed in select food plots was daikon radishes. This carb-loaded vegetable aids in aerating the soil as the large taproot grows downward. The root itself will also accumulate and store nitrogen produced from the clover. Over the winter and into the spring the root will break down releasing the stored nitrogen and naturally fertilizing the food plots for the next planting season.

The new methods that were introduced have already shown a notable improvement in deer herd quality and the Conservancy looks forward to this continual trend.