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Food Plot Maintenance

7/17/2012
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Velvet-buck-in-food-plotAs the drought of 2012 continues across much of the country so does the demise of many of our wildlife food plots.  No matter what type of food you have planted this year the excessive heat and lack of precipitation is going to have a negative impact.  Some people may be wondering if they are going to have any food plots to hunt over this fall or not.  Although much of that question is out of our hands, we can at least be certain not to make any fatal errors while waiting for Mother Nature to do her part.

When discussing the maintenance of perennial food plots the topic of mowing is at the top of the list.  There is no better management tool for a newly planted or established perennial food plot than mowing. Unfortunately, there is also no quicker way to ruin your perennial food plot than mowing either.  Even during a normal year the mid to late summer months are extremely hard on cooler season plants such as clover.  High temps and lower precipitation levels send these plants into a near dormant state.  As a result your clover seems to turn a very dull green to light brown and remains fairly short especially if it is receiving grazing pressure from the wildlife.  However, the weedy invaders in your food plot tend to favor these conditions and grow fairly rapidly.  Before you know it your clover is covered under a sea of ragweed, milkweed, and thistles.  The temptation is high to hop on your tractor and mow off these unwanted pests and restore your food plot back to its late spring glory.  Under our current conditions this move could quite possibly be the fatal blow to your already struggling food plot. 

Some may argue that these weeds are pulling what little available moisture there is away from your desirable plants.  I would tend to agree with this mindset if we were beginning to receive some consistent rainfall.  If we were getting rain on even a weekly basis I would want my food plot to be able to take advantage of that moisture and would mow off the weeds to minimize the competition.  But, most of the Midwest’s food plots are currently in a pretty dire survival situation.  When faced with this I prefer to allow these taller weeds to provide shade to the fragile plants below.  This will help reduce the sunburn on my desirable plants and it will also slow the evaporation of any moisture obtained from the occasional spot shower.  My main focus right now is for the root system to stay alive so that cooler temps and regular precipitation can breathe life back into my plots. 

With no rain in the forecast and hot sunny days the norm for the foreseeable future the tractor is going to continue to collect dust here.  Ever hopeful that this weather is going to turn around I will be doing my part to bring on the rain.  Please don’t alarm the authorities if you see a man in questionable attire, with a red neck and chalk white legs, performing ridiculous dance moves off the side of the highway.  Although it is not for the squeamish, I vow to continue this rain dance until help arrives.   ----    Corey

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