Food Plot Weeds
Weeds, Friend or foe?
A weed is something growing where it is undesired to be. For example, if you are a crop farmer and you have a soybean field, having corn in that soybean field would be considered a weed. The key to successful farming and food plotting is not total elimination of weeds but the ability to control the negative effects of weeds.
When I conduct seminars, I always bring up the neighbors 600 acres that were planted into warm season native grasses. They decided to buy seed from an organization that sells on price point. The end result is we are blessed with weed seeds being blown our way every year. Two year ago it took the state of Wisconsin weed experts 2 days to figure out what one new weed was.
You want to disc, plow, harrow or work the ground the deepest the first year in your food plotting and then shallower there after. Why is this? Once you clean up weed seeds laying in the plow zone, you don't want to go deeper, bringing up weeds laying out of the zone. Some weeds may be laying dormant in the ground for many years.
What i recommend for people to do is work the ground in the spring and wait 2 or 3 weeks to get a flush of weeds. Spray with glyphosate, clethodim and/or 2-4db and wait 1 week to plant. Plant a soil builder mix and then either kill off and plow down before planting your fall mix. You can also clip short and then overseed your fall mixes or drill without disturbing the soil.
Another practice is to not work the ground any time and practice no til. How can you do this? In the case of grass sod, you can frost seed in february or march, allowing mother nature to incorporate the seed via freezing and thawing action. The clovers will start germinating early and you can then spray clethodim to kill off the grasses. If any broadleaves flush, you can use 24db, butryrac 200 or buctril. The end result will be a pure clover stand without bringing up any weed seeds. You also could spring no til drill the plot after killing off the grasses and broadleaves with glyphosate.
For those who aren't planting a spring food plot cover crop, you can either no til your fall brassicas or kill off the weeds 1 week before planting and then overseed into the dead thatch. You do need to have loose soil and the addition of liquid or dry humics will help the cause. Humics will naturally loosen the soil, add organic matter and give other growth benefits.
Another thing to consider. What is a weed? Some weeds are very nutritious to deer. Some plant chufa for turkeys, yet it's yellow nutsedge, which is a hard to kill weed. Yep, turkeys love it but in the northern climates, it's hard to kill it. Another weed deer love is plantain. Plantain is high in protein and one of the highest mineral containing forages. Giant ragweed is also a staple of many deer's diets in the summer. We see it as the preferred forage for 2-3 weeks each year. We spray it to manage it but any escape giant ragweed we don't worry so much about. It is near impossible to have total weed free fields, but do they need to be? So many people worry about seeing a few grasses or broadleaves in their plots. In perennial plots the key thing is to not let them produce viable seed heads. This will reduce future weed regrowth. This is why clipping is essential. Many of these weeds are annual broadleaves and they will be managed from clipping.
Deer are selective browsers. They will eat what is the most nutritious and palatable at any given point in time. Grasses they will not eat typically and as long as they are not stunting other desired forage growth, they can be tolerated.
Think a bit like an organic farmer. Control weeds but don't worry about seeing weeds. Do the best you can by planting low weed count, high germination count seeds. Always have good seed to soil contact when working the ground, to get the food plot forages snapping out of the ground before a weed flush. Maintain soil ph and plant species that are best for your soil type and location. Sound agronomic practices is just as important as herbicides. The organic farmers don't use herbicides and we can reduce our reliance on them as well.