Awesome Annuals for Fall

By Jon Cooner

 One of the keys to getting the most from your food-plot system is to provide your deer with maximum nutrition and attraction for as much of the year as possible. When it comes to tailoring a food-plot system for your property, Imperial annual blends such as Winter-Greens, Pure Attraction and No-Plow can provide unmatched flexibility and performance. In most cases, Imperial perennial blends can be the backbone of a food-plot system.
To get the most benefit for your efforts, however, remember that annual forages can be a superb complement to your perennial plantings, and in some cases, they can even be a better option. Let’s look at some of the reasons why you might want to look more closely at annual plantings, and at how Imperial annual blends can fit your needs. Energy: The major nutrient categories involved in deer nutrition are protein, carbohydrates, lipids (fats and oils), minerals, vitamins and energy. When it comes to deer nutrition, perhaps the nutrient most often discussed is protein. And for good reason — protein is crucial during the spring and summer for herd health, antler growth, doe pregnancy and lactation. This emphasis on spring and summer nutrition, though, should not completely overshadow that of fall and winter. It is an equally critical nutritional period during which protein takes a back seat to another nutrient (or more accurately, a product of other nutrients): energy. Now, don’t misunderstand. Winter-Greens, Pure Attraction and No-Plow are all high in protein. It’s just that energy is so critical during the fall and winter, and that is another area where these annual blends really deliver. Put simply, deer must have high-energy food sources for the fall and winter if they are to thrive. That means that when choosing a forage strictly for fall and winter, you should choose a forage that does two things: It must be carbohydrate-rich, and it must produce substantial tonnage. Imperial annuals for fall and winter do just that. Lush, Rapid New Growth: Early fall is often a time when deer utilize food plots most heavily. As they prepare for the coming cold months, deer store as much energy as they can in the form of fat. Hard mast and other natural food sources high in lipids are major natural suppliers of stored energy.

However, mast production can fluctuate from year to year, and it can be quickly exhausted even in good years. Pure Attraction, Winter-Greens and No-Plow produce quickly and provide deer with abundant lush, new growth as they stock up on energy for the fall and winter.

Filling a Niche: Imperial annuals can also be a superb option if you are not able to plant a perennial in the fall. Consider that Imperial perennials are designed to perform best when planted in a seedbed that has a soil pH of 6.5 or higher and is as free of natural vegetation as possible. If you lack the equipment or time necessary to disk lime into your seedbed, Imperial No-Plow is specifically designed for just such a contingency. As the Whitetail Institute’s second-longest-running product, No-Plow has proved for decades that it will produce abundant, high-energy forage for your deer throughout the fall and winter, and with no ground tillage required. Also, what if you are able to till your soil and had planned to plant Imperial Whitetail Clover or Alfa-Rack Plus, but you waited a little too late to perform a soil test and now find that your soil pH is low? Since lime takes time to complete its job of raising soil pH, you should not try to lime your soil and plant Imperial Whitetail Clover right away if your soil pH is below 6.0. And with Alfa-Rack Plus, you should not plant if your soil pH before liming was 6.5, since all alfalfas are so highly dependent on soil pH. If you’re in that boat, are you just out of luck for this fall and winter? Absolutely not! In such cases, you can go ahead and add the lime called for in your soil test report, and disk it thoroughly into the seedbed. Then, plant Pure Attraction, Winter- Greens or No-Plow in the site for this fall and winter. That way, the lime will have time to raise your soil pH so that you can plant during the following spring or fall, and in the meantime, you will have a highly attractive, nutritious food source for your deer.

Meeting a Specific Need: Imperial annuals specifically designed for fall and winter can often fill a specific need you may have better than any other option. For example, logging roads can be excellent places for food plots, especially in heavily wooded areas. In some cases, though, soils do not lend themselves well to ground tillage. Imperial No-Plow is an excellent choice for logging roads, since it can be planted just by broadcasting seed and fertilizer right onto the roadbed. (Keep in mind that you do need seed-to-soil contact for No-Plow to perform.) And what if you want a product that sweetens right when the weather turns cold? In such cases, Imperial Winter-Greens is an ideal choice, since it is at its sweetest right after the first hard frosts of fall and stands tall in the snow. Winter-Greens contains unique “lettuce types” (brassicas that have a vegetable genetic base), which are exceptionally attractive. If you’re looking for the outstanding performance of Whitetail Institute brassicas plus earlier season plant varieties, Pure Attraction is an ideal selection. Pure Attraction offers both early and late season attraction and nutrition. The early-season stage of Pure Attraction features Whitetail Institute forage oats, winter peas and other early-season varieties. Whitetail Institute forage oats are cold tolerant and provide abundant carbohydrates due to their high sugar content. Once cold weather sets in, the Whitetail Institute brassicas sweeten and keep the plot highly nutritious and attractive throughout the coldest months of the year. Let’s look at each of these outstanding fall forage choices individually.

Winter-Greens: Imperial Winter-Greens is an incredibly attractive blend of “lettuce type” brassicas, which are massively more attractive than standard brassica products. These highly productive brassicas provide substantial, highly attractive, carbohydrate-rich tonnage during the fall and winter. The first hard frost of winter sweetens Winter-Greens, right when other food plots may be reaching exhaustion. Winter-Greens is also very drought resistant, which is important given the recommended planting dates for Winter-Greens, which is at least 50 days before the first frost of fall. Winter-Greens is intended for well-drained soils with a pH of 6.0 or higher.

Pure Attraction: Pure Attraction is a blend designed to deliver a one-two punch for the early and late seasons. The early season part of the blend consists of winter peas and grains, including WINA forage oats. These cold-tolerant oats establish very quickly, are high in sugar and are extremely attractive. For later in the season and through the coldest months of the winter, Pure Attraction provides the proven performance of Whitetail Institute brassicas.

 No-Plow: Imperial No-Plow is one of the Whitetail Institute’s longest-running products, and it has been continually improved over the years. No-Plow is a blend of annual forages consisting of forage grasses and grains, annual clovers and canola. When planted in the fall, No-Plow’s forage grasses and grains usually appear first, in as little as one week after planting in some cases. As deer utilize these components, the annual clovers in the blend appear and hold deer into the colder months. Once winter sets in, No-Plow’s canola component provides a highly productive, high energy food source for deer. Often, some components of No-Plow can last through spring turkey season and even into the following summer.