Good Planning Can Make the Most of Your Food Plot
Another deer season has come and gone. However, for a whitetail manager, the work for next season is just beginning.
By this time, you should be wrapping up your dormant season fires and already have the current crop of clover in the ground. So, it’s time to start thinking about your summer food plots. Personally, wherever I have the room, I put in soybeans.
Across the United States, soybeans are a staple for whitetail managers. They are packed with protein and literally provide tons of forage for whitetails. The issue most people will run into when it comes to soybeans, or any warm season legume, is overbrowsing. Like cowpeas and lablab, soybeans are a highly preferred warm season legume. This results in the soybeans being overbrowsed and makes it very tough to get them past the first 30 to 45 days.
In order to help establish a stand of soybeans, I recommend a few things. The most important thing is to plant the soybeans in large stands, about three acres or more for agricultural soybeans. For fields less than three acres, I recommend using some type of repellent, such as Milorganite, plus fencing off the beans with an electric fence. Without some type of protection, small stands of soybeans will be overbrowsed and result in a failed food plot.
Types of Soybeans
If you are limited to the size of your food plots, but would still like to plant soybeans, I recommend Eagle Seeds Gamekeeper soybean blend. Gamekeeper is a blend of three different types of forage soybeans. Two of the bean types are Group 7 and Group 8 soybeans.
Soybeans are grouped in groups of one to eight, based on the length of time it takes the bean to mature. For instance, a Group 1 soybean matures very quickly, which means once it is browsed by deer during the early stages of growth, it will not be able to grow through the browse pressure. A Group 8 bean that is browsed at an early stage will have time to recover from the browse pressure since it matures much slower.
This makes forage blends of Groups 7 and 8 an awesome choice for people limited to the size food plots they can plant. I am comfortable planting these two groups of beans in 1- to 3-acre stands, as long as cowpeas are mixed into the stand to help take some pressure off the soybeans.
“In the South, I recommend planting your soybeans in late April to early May.”
If you have access to a no-till drill, I recommend planting soybeans at a rate of 50 pounds per acre. This includes the Gamekeeper blend. If you wish to mix cowpeas into your soybean stand, I recommend using 25 pounds per acre when drilled.
If you do not have access to a no-till drill and you have to disk, seed and drag your food plots. I recommend using a rate of 70 to 80 pounds per acre of soybeans and mix cowpeas in at a rate of 30 to 40 pounds per acre. When dragging your food plots, be sure to cover the seed one-half to one inch deep.
In the South, I recommend planting your soybeans in late April to early May. Personally, I plant my soybeans the last week of April. This ensures they have time to mature and produce bean pods before the first frost.
Another thing to consider is planting some variety of Roundup ready or Glyphosate tolerant soybean. This will make weed control much easier and result in a much better stand of soybeans. After you have planted your soybeans, wait three weeks to come back and spray the beans with Glyphosate. I cannot stress enough how important this is to establishing your stand of soybeans.
Also, keep in mind that you must always inoculate your soybeans before planting. Since soybeans are legumes, they fix their own nitrogen in their root system. The inoculation helps with this process by adding nitrogen fixing bacteria to the seed.
Before you jump right into planting your soybeans, or any other food plot, the first step should be to take a soil sample. If the nutrients your plants need are not readily available, or the soil pH level is not where it needs to be for the desired crop, your food plots will never reach their full potential.
The pH level is the measurement used to gauge the soil acidity or alkalinity. A pH level between 6.5 and 7.5 is considered neutral. Anything less than 6.5 is considered acidic and anything greater than 7.5 is considered alkaline.
Soybeans prefer a pH level between 5.8 and 7. This is fairly easy to maintain if you stay on top of your soil pH levels. I recommend pulling soil samples on all of your food plots annually in order to better gauge the needs from year to year.
“Soybeans can and will greatly help you provide for your deer herd through the summer.”
If your pH levels are not where they need to be for your desired crop, the plants will never be able to utilize the nutrients in your soil or the nutrients you applied via fertilizer. Each crop will have a different pH preference, which is why when you send in your soil samples, I recommend putting the crop you plan on planting on the sample I.D bag.
I use Waters Agricultural Laboratories for all of my soil samples for one reason – maximum yield. Most soil labs are going to give you the results based on the best economic yield. This means they are going to tell you how to get the most yield, for the cheapest price. For farmers this is great, but for wildlife managers, it leaves a lot on the table so to speak.
Waters Ag will give you the analysis based on the maximum yield. This means they are going to tell you exactly what needs to be done to get the highest yield out of your crop. Not just the best yield for the lowest cost. This is vital for providing the needed forage a whitetail requires.
In summary, soybeans can and will greatly help you provide for your deer herd through the summer. However, it does take some prep and site-specific requirements in order to be successful.
If you would like to order the Gamekeeper soybeans mentioned in this article, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.