Brassicas are a staple in many fall food plots but they are miss understood by most individuals and wildlife companies. Brassicas range in maturity from 45 days for some forage turnip crosses to as long as 150 days for the swedes. Many common brassicas include dwarf Essex rape, purple top turnips, daikon radish, and hunter brassica. What many do not realize is that there is a big difference in disease resistance and cold tolerance of these brassicas and other newer generics and options.
I have done numerous brassica trials over the past decade and try to not just use words to convey to people the differences but also show people via pictures and in person tours. For example, I include purple top rutabaga in many of my mixes instead of purple top turnips. The rutabaga matures 20-30 days slower, have a much better insect and disease resistance. You also get a larger bulb.
When doing side by sides using hunter brassica next to other newer genetic forage turnips, we see a much better disease resistance on the newer genetic forage turnips. The trend with the newer releases is disease resistance. That is an area many never think about, but it is a huge factor in the palatability of brassicas.
Most fertilize brassicas wrong and the result is lower early consumption, less growth and even slightly poorer cold tolerance. Average yielding brassicas need around 100 lbs. of potassium per season. This is one of the reasons why I see over 90% of soil samples depleted in potassium. There is no way to meet requirements using 10-10-10 or 15-15-15 at 200-300 pounds per acre. We only need 12-24 lbs. of phosphorous per acre. I have been encouraging my clients to use a starter fertilizer at planting and then coming back with the added urea 3-5 weeks post plant.
Another area that most overlook is the use of sulfur. Sulfur is required and brassicas heavily mine sulfur from the soil. It is rare to ever see a soil sample come back adequate in soil sulfur. A simple tip I have voiced for many years is to include 50 pounds per acre per year of fertilizer grade ammonium sulfate. This adds nitrogen but also gets that much needed sulfur to the plant. Sulfur will also elevate the brassica protein levels. Who does not want higher protein forages?
In an industry where profit margin comes first, realize that there is a big difference in costs between the common brassicas and the newer genetics. The price per bag can be a focus of many. When one stops and think about yield and attraction, what is the value of that? If your planting 1 acre of food plots, why wouldn’t you want to have double the yield. Wouldn’t that be wiser to do better instead of doing more? Diseased and insect infested plots might mean that trophy buck now is not where you want him to be or worse yet, on your neighbors.
For those who follow me this fall, I will have 16 different brassicas on my main research plot. I’ll share on this page pictures and perhaps even some data.