Winter-Greens: the best of the brassicas

By Jon Cooner

 The Whitetail Institute’s Winter-Greens brassica blend has been on the market for two years. Has it been a success? Without question, the answer is a resounding, “Yes!” In fact, Winter-Greens is well on the way to dominating the brassica food-plot market. Let’s look at why.

Actually, the reason is very simple. It’s because Winter-Greens is an incredibly superior forage product for deer. The brassicas in Winter-Greens are not standard brassica varieties. Instead, they are lettuce-type brassicas, which have a vegetable genetic base. These lettuce brassicas are vastly more tender, palatable and attractive to deer. In fact, tests of Winter-Greens alongside other brassica blends continue to show that deer prefer Winter-Greens 4 to 1. You may ask yourself, “How can that be? How can one all-brassica blend outperform other all-brassica products by 400%? Since they’re all brassicas, how can that be possible? “If you’ve asked that question, you are assuming that all brassicas are the same. Let me assure you — they aren’t! Remember the old commercial on TV where the old guy says, “Motor oil is motor oil” just before his car’s engine blows up? I may be showing my age here, but I remember it. The point of the commercial was that all motor oils are not the same — that some outperform others. The very same thing is true of brassicas — all brassicas are not the same, and the lettuce-types brassicas in Winter-Greens are truly preferred by deer. Anyone familiar with the history of the Whitetail Institute knows that the Institute is the leader of the food-plot industry.

The thing that got it there, and that keeps it there, is the fundamental principle that governs all the Institute’s research, development and testing of potential new products: the Whitetail Institute will never release a new product until it is absolutely certain that is the very best that they can make it. And be sure you understand this critical point: the Whitetail Institute doesn’t stop development and testing of a new product once it will outperform the competition. New products have to go farther — much farther. Every new product has to satisfy the Whitetail Institute that it is the best that the Institute can make, and that is a much higher standard! In fact, their commitment to testing new products against their own abilities rather than just against the competition is the single biggest reason for Winter-Greens’ superiority over competing products. Let’s look at why. The Whitetail Institute has been testing and marketing brassicas since the early 1990s. In fact, the Institute’s Imperial No-Plow blend was the first nationally branded product to include brassicas. When the Whitetail Institute started testing brassica varieties during the initial research-and-development stages of Winter-Greens, it started with a goal. That goal was to produce a forage blend that would be highly attractive to deer and provide forage even in the cold winter months. Protein is a critical nutrient for deer, but it is at its most important during spring and summer when bucks are re-growing antlers, does are in the later stages of pregnancy and, even later, producing milk for their fawns. In the fall and winter, though, protein is not nearly as important a nutritional element as it is during the spring and summer. That’s not to say Winter-Greens is not highly nutritious — it certainly is! In fact, the protein content of Winter-Greens is as high as 30% or higher. However, because Winter-Greens is designed for fall and winter when natural food sources are scarce and most food-plot plantings may be exhausted, the Institute’s main goals when developing Winter-Greens was to create a blend that would provide abundant, highly attractive forage for deer during the coldest winter months and be the most attractive brassica product available. Once the Institute identified its main goals for the new product, the research and development team moved on to the next stage of product development: selecting candidate brassica varieties to test all across North America.

These candidates included brassica varieties that were already well know and others that were not. This is the same approach the Institute has followed all the way back to the very first clover varieties its first Director of Forage Research, Dr. Wiley Johnson, selected for breeding Imperial Whitetail Clover. for breeding stock Dr. Johnson selected candidate clovers from the U.S. commodities market, Europe, the Middle East and elsewhere. This is the same approach the Institute took when selecting potential candidates for a new, all-brassica blend that would carry the Imperial name. They didn’t just start with well-known varieties for breeding-stock candidates. They looked at everything — varieties that were well-known, and others that weren’t. Choosing candidate brassica varieties that were well-known in the U.S. was pretty easy. Standard brassicas had been included in food-plot blends for years. In fact, the Institute tested these brassica varieties before they were even introduced to the food-plot market in North America, but it elected not to release an all-brassica blend at that time because the Institute’s early focus on research and development was to create a food-plot planting that would provide deer with year-round forage that was highly attractive and nutritious. The Institute’s early tests of standard brassicas quickly showed that they were not the best candidates to meet those goals because they were highly attractive to whitetails for only a brief period of the year, following the first hard frost of fall. Although standard brassicas did not meet the Whitetail Institute’s early research and development goals, the Institute did find a great use for them. Because they do become sweeter after the first frost of fall, standard brassicas have been used as a component in some of the Institute’s forage products ever since 1993, specifically those blends the Institute intentionally designed to provide deer with multiple plant varieties, each of which performs best at a different time during the life of the plot.

The key to the overwhelming superiority of Winter- Greens, though, lies in the other brassica varieties the Whitetail Institute gathered as test candidates — those that were not already well-known in North America. These included unique brassica types that, unlike standard brassicas, have a vegetable genetic base. These “lettuce-type” brassicas are so attractive to whitetails that it’s almost unfair to compare them to standard brassica blends on the market today. Like all brassica varieties, the lettuce brassicas in Winter-Greens are also at their sweetest after the first hard frost of fall. However, the Whitetail Institute realized early on in the development and testing of the new Winter-Greens blend that deer often utilized Winter-Greens even earlier, and Field Testers all across North America continue to confirm that. Even here in Alabama, where temperatures often don’t dip below the freezing mark until November or even December, it has been found in many cases that deer heavily utilize Winter-Greens plots as early as September. That’s why in all honesty, the overwhelming success of Winter-Greens is not surprising. Like all forage blends that bear the name “Imperial Whitetail,” you can be assured that it contains the very best product the Whitetail Institute could make. That’s why the Whitetail Institute remains the industry leader. More information on Winter-Greens is available online at