I see so many people asking this time of year if it’s too late to plant food plots. Here are my words on this topic. In the upper Midwest many farmers do not plant cover crops until their silage corn and soybeans come off the fields. Most fall food plots are essential “cover crops.” Many brassicas range in maturity from 45 days up to 100 days. That doesn’t mean that if a brassica fully matures in 100 days it won’t give you effective growth. In fact, 3 of the longest day brassicas will be 36” tall in around 50 days whereas the industry standard rape will be around 21” tall at 50 days post plant.
Many cereal grains like winter wheat, winter rye and winter triticale are designed to make roots and then go dormant. They will grow fast out of the ground, but the clock is ticking as to how much tonnage they will produce. If one wants tonnage, research shows that every day after august 15th your yield really drops. That doesn’t mean you are not seeing benefits. You will still achieve attraction.
A concept that is simple is this. What matures the fastest, grows the fastest. It also tends to be the most attractive early on in its growth cycle. What matures the latest tends to become more desirable 1-2 weeks later into their growth. This is easily shown to people by using a refractometer. Just as simple of teaching tool is watching what deer eat and when. They are driven by brix (sugars).
I educate people on how to speed up growth during later than normal plantings. You speed up maturity by about 3 days when you’re on a liquid program that involves a higher rate of quality humic or fulvic acids. You also benefit from growing roots and that can be achieved with natural root stimulators. You also will see results when planting into soil that has enough soil residue and using a sound soil moisture holding program. That means working less frequently and at shallower depths if at all.
The key for later plantings is staggered maturity and bio diversities. There are also forages that stay greener at much lower temps. You also can make forages become more “cold tolerant” by planting species that have better insect and disease resistance. They stay healthier and higher in sugar. You also use overlooked nutrients like sulfur which will jack up the plant sugars and in return help stay greener later and become colder tolerant by a couple degrees.
The concepts are really pretty simple but overlooked by many. I normally tell people to count back 60 days from your first frost date and that is an ideal planting date. With that being said, even if you only have 45 days of effective growth, you still can produce around 4000 deer feedings per acre of quality and attractive growth.