Fine Tuning Forages for Maximum Performance

By Whitetail Institute Staff

When choosing the forage you’ll put in each site, don’t forget to consider the purpose you want that forage to serve in your food-plot system.  When it comes to maximizing the results from your food-plot system, remember that using annuals alone or in combination with perennials can be a great idea.

There are several factors to consider when choosing what forage to plant in a specific site.  Some of these, such as soil type, slope and equipment accessibility are physical factors related to the site itself.  Here, we are going to talk about a second group of factors involved in forage selection: the purpose you want the forage in that site to serve in the context of your overall food-plot system.  When it comes to fall annual plantings, the rapid growth and attraction of Imperial annual blends put them at the top of the list.  Let’s look at four Whitetail Institute annual blends that are designed for planting in the fall, and how each might be used alone or in conjunction with a nearby perennial planting.

Imperial Winter-Greens.  When Winter-Greens was introduced, it literally took the brassica forage market by storm.  The results of early testing were that Imperial Winter-Greens outperformed standard brassica products by a huge margin, and customer feedback since then has confirmed it.  The reason lies in the nature of the brassicas in Winter-Greens.  Unlike standard brassicas products, Winter-Greens features “lettuce types” (brassicas with a vegetable genetic base) that are far more attractive than standard brassicas.  Like brassicas in general, the lettuce types in Winter-Greens become sweeter after the first frosts of fall, but many field testers continue to report heavy usage by deer even in the early fall before frosts arrive.

Winter-Greens is a superb forage for providing deer with a late-season food source that is both highly attractive and nutritious.  The brassicas in Winter-Greens survive cold weather better than other forages, and they can stand tall in the snow when other forages have stopped production.  They can also provide late-season backup for nearby perennial plantings if they are grazed down heavily in the fall and winter or buried too deep in the snow for deer to reach.  Winter-Greens can be planted alone or top-dressed into existing perennial plots.

Many field testers elect to add Winter-Greens to their existing perennial plots every fall by top-dressing them with up to 3 pounds of Winter-Greens per acre.  In the far north, this can be a great way to provide abundant food for deer during the coldest months of the year until perennials are again available before spring green-up.

Imperial Pure-Attraction.  Like Winter-Greens, Imperial Pure-Attraction generated a huge following as soon as it hit the market.  Specifically designed to provide overlapping early and late season stages, Pure-Attraction is really an all-in-one annual forage for fall and winter.

The early-fall stage of Pure-Attraction features WINA forage oats, a rapidly growing forage oat that is high in sugar content and cold-tolerant.  Also included in the early-fall stage are winter peas to help the plot green up as rapidly as possible.  As late fall approaches and deer continue to consume the oats and peas, the late-season stage of Pure-Attraction kicks in.  This stage features the Institute’s specially selected brassicas, which serves as an abundant food source for deer through the late fall and winter.

When it comes to nutrition, most folks are aware of how important protein is, and Pure-Attraction has plenty of protein to meet the needs of deer during the fall and winter.  What is perhaps not as commonly known, though, is how important carbohydrates are to deer during this period.  In fact, carbohydrates are even more important than protein to deer during the cold months of the year.  Both stages of Pure-Attraction are very high in carbohydrates.  The high-sugar forage oats in Pure Attraction are a magnet for deer as they try to pack on energy reserves.  Then, once frosts arrive, the brassicas in Pure-Attraction continue to provide deer with abundant carbohydrates as starches in the brassicas are converted to sugars.   In that way, Pure-Attraction is a great choice for a fall-winter hunting plot, as well as a supplemental source of carbohydrates for deer until perennials re-emerge in the early spring.

Imperial No Plow and Secret Spot.  Of all Imperial forage blends, none is more versatile than No Plow and Secret Spot.  That’s because these products can even be planted without tilling the soil to prepare a traditional seedbed.  Accordingly, they can be used in areas inaccessible with equipment, sites that should not be tilled because they are highly erodable, and virtually anywhere you want to establish an attractive, nutritious food plot.  No Plow can be planted in the spring (in most areas) and in the fall.  Secret Spot is specifically designed only for fall planting.  When planted in the fall, they are very similar in application.  Both contain forage grains and grass, which are often the first plants to emerge after planting.  Shortly thereafter, another forage group in the blends, annual clovers, emerges and is utilized by deer.  As cold weather approaches, WINA brassicas carry the plot through the rest of the fall and winter.

Like the other forage products I’ve mentioned, No Plow and Secret Spot can be planted alone, or near existing perennials to give deer variety and increased forage production and availability for the fall and winter.  No Plow and Secret Spot can even be top-dressed into existing perennial plots in the fall to add the attraction of new, tender, rapid growing forage plants.

When it comes to fall annual plantings, the line of Imperial forage blends has you covered.  Plant them alone for superior attraction and nutrition all season long.  Or plant them in conjunction with your existing perennials to add attractive, nutritious new growth.  Aside from a few planting requirements, the only real limit on how you use these outstanding fall annuals is your imagination.