Planting Food Plots

Karen Cambre, Sharpe, Kenneth W.  |  8/22/2018 2:15:46 PM

News article for August 20, 2018

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Labor Day is fast approaching and with it brings a change of season. No, it is not a drastic change in temperature, but a feeling that we have made it through the hottest part of the year. For some the new season is football, but for many there is still another season, hunting.

Dove season typically starts around Labor Day and it is a welcome return to the great outdoors for hunters who have been biding their time.

A task at hand for hunters is getting food plots ready. Most of the seasoned deer hunters who I know enjoy preparing for hunting as much or even more than actually hunting. They enjoy spending time on a tractor, clipping, disking and planting. It is too early to start planting, but not too early to start planning.

If you ask a dozen people which forages to plant for deer, you will get a dozen different answers. I have seen a lot of different plantings and seen success and failure in most. There is a common theme in being successful with food plots and that is proper soil fertility. Deer, just like cattle have a greater affinity for well fertilized pastures that have the correct pH. I have seen this repeatedly in demonstrations and practical application.

Your first task is to get a soil sample if you have not already. It is a simple procedure that can greatly increase your probability of growing forage successfully and attracting deer and other wildlife. There is still time, but do not delay. I need a pint of soil taken randomly from throughout the growing area and at a depth of about 2 inches. Bring that to my office and we can get results from the LSU Soil Lab within 5-7 working days. There is a $10 charge per sample.Cool season forages require a higher soil pH to grow than warm season grasses. You will absolutely see an improvement in forage growth and animal preference if you have a low soil pH and then lime your soil to the proper pH.

Next, you will get a recommendation for phosphorous and potassium that are applied at planting. These are macro nutrients that are essential for plant growth and if they are low all the nitrogen that you apply will not make your forages grow.

Nitrogen is the nutrient that makes forage grow rapidly. Most hunters will only apply fertilizers at planting and then will run out of nitrogen and be disappointed. Just watching the color of forages will tell you when they need more nitrogen. Dark to medium green is good and light green to yellow is in need of nitrogen.

A simple rule of thumb will get you started. Grasses such as wheat, oats, rye and ryegrass need about 1 pound of nitrogen per day of growth. The first number in the fertilizer analysis is the % of nitrogen. If you use ammonium nitrate or its replacement, which is a urea/ammonium sulfate (UAS) blend, you will see the analysis as 33-0-0. This means 33% nitrogen or 3 pounds of this product for one day of growth. If you put out 100 pounds of UAS, grasses will grow for approximately 33 days.

Early September is too hot for cool season forages in South Louisiana. You can start planting oats as early as September 15th, and wait until at least September 20th for wheat, rye and ryegrass. My suggestion is to wait until Oct 1st for all but oats and be aware that armyworms have been active this summer.

Follow your soil sample recommendations for lime, phosphorous and potassium. For nitrogen, I like to apply 150 pounds of UAS or 100 pounds of urea at planting around October 1st. Top dress with the same amount right after Thanksgiving. That will take you to the end of January.

I will be following up with seed rates and varieties soon. Stay tuned.

For more information on these or related topics contact Kenny at 225-686-3020 or visit our website at

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