A Drought hit my food plots. Now what?
As a steward of the land, you know you can’t control everything, but frustration can kick-in at any step of the process because we want to control everything. I have spent most of my life trying to improve land and wildlife habitat to increase hunting opportunities and improve land access.
As I have been traveling around the country the past several years, I have now landed back in the great state of Minnesota. I have been fast at work putting together plans and habitat improvements for whitetail deer, pheasant, black bear, grouse, and much more!
On my latest quest of establishing new food plots in west central Minnesota. It has been interesting to say the least. We ended up planting a mix of soybeans and cowpeas to start these plots off for at least the summer. This is a mix I have been wanting to try out for some time and was stoked being able to plant this early summer.
The biggest reason for mixing the cowpeas and soybeans together is to one create a browse pressure resistant plot since we are planting in eight small plots, roughly a tenth of an acre in size. These plots could get hit pretty hard by deer, but we have big agriculture fields of corn and soybeans around us that will help as well. Also, cowpeas need to have something they can vine on. Cowpeas will typically end up laying down on the ground without anything to climb on. Some people will use other plants for vining purposes like sunflowers.
At the beginning of June, we finally had the time and the right conditions to plant our summer food plots. We even had three days of rain in the forecast starting the night we planted! Well we did… Then the area got three to four weeks without rain, except for a major downpour almost a week and a half after planting. Yikes!
Let’s look at what happens with drought on your food plots if you planted and then it simply just never rained for quite some time. The result of our work were low germination rates, dried up soils, slow establishment of plants, and anxiety (lots of anxiety).
We did finally get some growth out of the plots, but now we have more weeds and a low number of plants growing. Here are some things to consider next time you plant.
We knew the soils were dry. We probably should have planted at the same time we tilled. The soil was still hydrated and was vacant of weeds. This would have been nice to have our plants start growing right away before weeds took over our plots since it never rained for a while after planting some weeds had a chance to grow and added more resistance to our soybeans and cowpeas.
We also broadcasted our plots. This is something that I wanted to test out with soybeans and cowpeas. Our plots are in areas that you can’t get too big of equipment to, so we didn’t use a planter. The soil was also drier at the time of planting so the ground that was loose was now much harder. So, when we dragged the plot to cover up the seeds, we could only get a limited amount of soil over the seeds.
With bigger seeds like these you need more soil coverage compared to let’s say brassicas or clovers. If you have the ability to culti-pack, that would be a better way to ensure the seeds were properly in the soil.
When we finally some rain it rained so hard that the little dust and soil over the seeds got washed off in areas. This caused a pretty drastic loss in germination.
In a nutshell, learn from our mistakes and think about what can happen so you can better plan your plots.
We will be continuing to monitor our plots and doing some adjustments in areas, we will be transforming some of these plots into some different varieties for the fall, especially if the existing soybeans are not producing enough in pods for later season food.
About the author: Mike Kangas (aka Hunting Land Mike) is based in Minnesota.
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