Superior Sunn Hemp Formula Boosts Benefits of Popular PowerPlant

 By Whitetail Institute Staff

 Have you ever wondered why the Whitetail Institute only offers one annual food plot product specifically designed to deliver massive amounts of protein for deer during spring and summer? The reason is simple: No competing spring/summer annual food plot product we’ve tested can match the tonnage of palatable, high-protein forage that PowerPlant provides. The Whitetail Institute’s Research and Development Department is always working on new products and finding ways to make existing products even better. In this article, we’ll look at why PowerPlant is already the top performer in annual food plot products designed for spring and summer protein delivery, as well as how the Whitetail Institute has raised the bar even further.


Understanding why PowerPlant is such a superb forage product must begin with an explanation of protein and why it’s so important for deer during spring and summer. First, that’s when bucks are growing antlers, and that requires lots of protein. The first stage of antler growth is the development of the velvet antler, which is comprised of up to 80 percent protein (collagen). Later in the antler growing process, bucks will deposit minerals on that velvet matrix, hardening it until it's solid. The first step, though, is to maximize the size of the velvet antler as much as a buck’s genetic makeup will allow. And protein is not just critical in antler formation. Although we commonly refer to the 200-day stretch of spring and summer as the antler-growing period, don't assume that antler growth is the only reason deer rely heavily on protein. During the same period, protein is equally critical to the rest of the herd. Doe milk is extremely high in nutrients, including protein. And fawns require high levels of protein as they rapidly grow during spring and summer. Exactly how much protein deer need during spring and summer is a matter of some debate, but it's generally recognized that bucks require about 16 to18 percent protein when building their antlers, and does and fawns require even higher dietary protein levels. To be clear, these are the optimum levels — amounts required if deer are to reach as much of their genetic potential as possible. Unfortunately, natural forages of spring and summer are generally very low in protein in almost all areas of the country, and their availability to deer drops off sharply as summer progresses. Even with these low protein levels and lack of availability, deer can obviously survive, but a manager who wants to push his deer as far as their genetic blueprints allow should supplement the protein shortfall.

PowerPlant’s Composition

The key to PowerPlant’s incredible performance lies in the nature of its components and how they work together to deliver massive amounts of protein when deer need it most and to keep delivering that protein even when other spring/summer plantings are exhausted. PowerPlant’s components can be generally divided into two categories: forage plants and structural plants. The backbone forage plants, which make up the larger percentage of PowerPlant, are vining legumes. These are true forage varieties that outshine agricultural varieties in several ways. Agricultural soybeans, for example, also offer high protein, but their utility is less than optimum when they are used as a forage for deer. The main reason is they don’t tolerate browsing very well, often being wiped out quickly or dying as soon as they are bitten off by deer. In contrast, the forage varieties of soybeans and peas in PowerPlant grow in supple vines that remain highly palatable to deer, and they’re also browse-tolerant. Once PowerPlant establishes, they can continue to vigorously grow even after being bitten off by a deer. Smaller amounts of structural plants are also included to act as a lattice for the vining legumes to climb and maximize production instead of growing along the ground. For years, the structural plants in PowerPlant have consisted of specially selected sunflowers and a high quality wildlife sorghum. Although the sunflowers will continue as a structural component of PowerPlant, the sorghum has been replaced by sunn hemp. Next, we’ll look at the range of benefits sunn hemp brings to PowerPlant.

Sunn Hemp

Sunn hemp is a warm-season legume that brings a heck of a lot to the food plot table. It’s a great soil builder that adds organic matter and nitrogen to the soil and translocates other soil nutrients from the subsoil. Sunn hemp is also drought-tolerant, and it can even help suppress weeds. And in the case of PowerPlant, the replacement of the sorghum component with sunn hemp yields improvements on several other fronts. Sunn hemp now plays the same structural role in PowerPlant that sorghum did. It grows tall very quickly; as much as six feet high or more in only a month or two. Its superiority to sorghum as a forage for deer, though, is where sunn hemp really shines. The attractiveness of sunn hemp to deer is nothing short of incredible — and so is the determination with which it continues to regrow. Unlike sorghum, sunn hemp produces highly palatable leaves that are about 30 percent protein. As a result, PowerPlant produces even more protein than before. Sunn hemp is also much more browse-tolerant than sorghum. Generally, deer don’t eat sorghum until the head dries. Then, they eat the head, and it’s gone. That wasn’t an issue with PowerPlant before, because sorghum was included mainly as a structural component. Sunn hemp’s foliage, though, keeps vigorously growing after deer start to browse it, even if they bite off the crown of the plant. This increases PowerPlant’s tonnage and longevity even more, and it can help reduce the difficulty some PowerPlant users have experienced when planting small PowerPlant plots in areas with heavy deer densities.

PowerPlant is now Arrest Max-Approved

The replacement of the sorghum in PowerPlant with sunn hemp will also help planters reduce grass competition after planting Power- Plant. Grass takes up root space and siphons off soil nutrients and moisture that would otherwise have been available to PowerPlant. Also, although PowerPlant grows quickly enough to overtake competition from grass and other weeds in most cases, grass competition that’s especially severe can compromise the stand. Because the sorghum in PowerPlant prevented folks from spraying standing PowerPlant with selective grass herbicides, planters facing relentless grass competition after planting PowerPlant really had no option except to hope that their PowerPlant would grow quickly enough to shade out the grass. By replacing the sorghum in PowerPlant with sunn hemp, planters will now be able to spray their growing PowerPlant with Arrest Max, the Whitetail Institute’s selective grass herbicide. As has always been the case, wait to plant PowerPlant until soil temperatures have reached at least 65 degrees, day and night. If you see grass starting to grow in your PowerPlant plot, don’t wait too long to spray Arrest Max. Arrest Max works best at controlling grasses that are still young, ideally when grass is still only about two to four inches tall. And if you’re wondering whether walking or driving across the stand will harm PowerPlant, the answer is yes, but if you spray in a timely manner, the damage will be minimal, and in a few weeks, you won’t even be able to tell you went through it. Also, the minimal damage you cause will be far outweighed by the increased tonnage you’ll get by providing more moisture, nutrients and root space for your PowerPlant. If you’re already one of the thousands of hunters and managers who have seen the tall, thick wall of succulent, protein-rich forage Power- Plant produces, you already know why it’s so popular that the Whitetail Institute sells out of it almost every year. (And that reminds me: As is the case every year, don’t delay in ordering your PowerPlant for this spring if you want to make sure you get yours.) Now, you also know why the new PowerPlant is even better. For more information about PowerPlant, visit, or call the Whitetail Institute at (800) 688-3030.