Pick Your Product — Institute Forages are Designed for Virtually Every Circumstance

By Whitetail Institute Staff

A question the Whitetail Institute’s in-house consultants are often asked is, “Which of the Whitetail Institute’s perennial forage products is the best?”
The answer is, “All of them are the best they can be, and your own circumstances will dictate which will work best in a specific plot.” Each Whitetail Institute product is the very best the Whitetail Institute can make to meet specific planting circumstances hunters and managers face across North America. The main difference is really just what planting circumstances each is designed to meet.

In this article, we’ll help you identify which Whitetail Institute perennial is “best” for each of your food plot sites. The first step is understanding the process the Whitetail Institute follows in developing new forage products.

The Whitetail Institute Process

So, what do we mean when we say that each Whitetail Institute product is “the best” the Whitetail Institute can make? We mean that the Whitetail Institute does everything it can to ensure that its forage products can attract, hold and grow bigger and better deer in a broad variety of soils and climates across North America. The process involves taking ideas and bringing them to reality through something called scientific method.


By now, most hunters and managers are aware that the Whitetail Institute and its first forage product, Imperial Whitetail Clover, started with founder Ray Scott’s idea that just as plant varieties had been scientifically developed specifically to meet the needs of cattle, grain production and other agricultural purposes, new plant varieties could also be scientifically developed specifically to attract and improve the quality of whitetails. Scott started the Whitetail Institute with that goal in mind more than a quarter century ago, and because of continuous improvement in varieties included in it through the years, Imperial Whitetail Clover remains the No. 1 food plot planting in the world and the only clover product ever scientifically developed and specifically designed for whitetail deer. Since 1988, most of the Whitetail Institute’s new product ideas have come from customers. Imperial Whitetail Extreme, for example, started when the Whitetail Institute’s in-house consultants spotted a trend among customers asking for a perennial forage that would rival the attractiveness and nutritional content of Imperial Whitetail Clover, tolerate lower soil pH and be able to tolerate lower rainfall amounts.

Scientific Method

One thing that makes Whitetail Institute products unique is how the Whitetail Institute goes about turning ideas into reality: by strict adherence to something called scientific method. When it comes to developing food plot products specifically to attract, hold and grow whitetail deer, the various definitions of scientific method found in several dictionaries can be condensed as follows: reaching conclusions based on facts, measurement and observation that are objective, meaning that they allow reality to speak for itself. The process the Whitetail Institute uses to take ideas to reality is structured to adhere to that principal, without exception. And that’s perhaps the biggest reason for the success Whitetail Institute customers have enjoyed with Whitetail Institute products for more than a quarter of a century: The Whitetail Institute develops and tests its products according to practices that ensure real-world results.


As mentioned, scientific method relies on facts, measurement and observation. The facts on which the Whitetail Institute bases its forage research include specific traits each product must exhibit — traits that relate to forage attractiveness and quality specifically for whitetail deer, and to grow in a variety of soil and climactic conditions across North America. These traits include rapid stand establishment, early seedling vigor, high and sustained nutritional content, heat and drought tolerance, cold tolerance, disease resistance, and of course, attractiveness to deer. These traits weigh heavily in all phases of Whitetail Institute research, development and testing.

Measurement and Observation

As also mentioned, true scientific process requires that testing be conducted in a way that “allows reality to speak for itself.” Consider the traits the Whitetail Institute looks for when selecting and breeding plant varieties for its food plot products. Examples include how quickly and well they establish and grow in a wide variety of climates and how attractive they are to deer when young and also once they mature. What better way to determine both than to plant them across North America under real-world conditions, observe how well they grow and let wild, free-ranging deer show you which ones they prefer? And that’s exactly how the Whitetail Institute tests forage components, individually and when blended with other compatible forages: by planting them at certified research stations and with field testers across the United States and Canada. That’s why you can be sure that a product that says Whitetail Institute on it takes the guesswork out. All Whitetail Institute products share that same quality. Now, let’s look at how the Whitetail Institute’s perennial forage products differ from one another and the conditions each is designed for.

Which Perennial Forage is Optimum for Your Food Plot Site?

All Whitetail Institute forage products have been painstakingly developed by the Whitetail Institute for a particular set of planting conditions or factors. When deciding which Whitetail Institute forage product to plant in a particular site, you need to know what conditions each is specifically designed for. Because these factors differ from site to site, you should go through all the factors for one food plot site at a time. To assist you in doing that, the Whitetail Institute has an online Forage Selector on its website, www.whitetailinstitute.com. Generally, there are two categories of factors to consider: physical factors relating to the site itself, and timing factors — whether you want a forage designed to last for multiple years from a single planting (a perennial) or one that’s designed to last for part of one calendar year (an annual). Because this article is about Whitetail Institute perennials (we’ll cover annuals in the next issue), we’ll assume that you’re looking for a multi-year forage and move on to the other category: physical factors relating to the plot. All Whitetail Institute perennials should be planted in seedbeds that have been prepared by disking or tilling and smoothing. Accordingly, make sure you can access the site with appropriate equipment. Beyond that, the perennial selection decision should depend on two things: (1) minimum annual rainfall, and (2) drainage (soil type and slope). Minimum Annual Rainfall. Remember that Whitetail Institute perennials are designed to last for multiple years from one planting. That’s why you should be sure you consider not just the current year’s rainfall levels but also historical rainfall data. Drainage (Soil Type and Slope). For our purposes, soil type will be one of two things: heavier or lighter, and which it is depends on how well or poorly the soil in the site can retain moisture. Slope means exactly that: whether the plot is flat or sloped, and if sloped, whether the slope is gradual or something steeper. For forage-selection purposes, determining soil type is very easy: If you were to take some soil from the plot a few days after a rain, ball it up tightly in your hand and then open your hand. It will do one of two things: (1) If it falls apart into a few big chunks, we’d call it a good soil, meaning that it has the ability to retain some moisture when it receives some rain. (2) If it falls completely apart into grains, we’d call it a lighter soil, meaning it doesn’t retain moisture as well. Determining slope is even easier. You don’t have to measure it in degrees. Just eyeball it to determine whether the site is flat, slightly sloped, moderately sloped or steep. Because soil type and slope affect the forage’s access to moisture, they must be considered together when selecting a perennial for a particular site.

Imperial Whitetail Clover

Imperial Whitetail Clover is the No. 1 food plot planting in the world, and the standard by which all other food plot products in the industry are measured. Imperial Whitetail Clover includes the only clover varieties genetically developed specifically for food plots for deer. Imperial Whitetail Clover requires a minimum annual rainfall of 30 inches per year and should be planted in flat sites with good soils that hold moisture.


Double-Cross is one of several Whitetail Institute perennial forage products that include Imperial Whitetail Clover as a component for maximum attraction, high protein levels, longevity and variety. In addition, the Whitetail Institute’s highly attractive annual brassicas are added to boost tonnage even further in the early and late season the first year and provide deer with a much-needed carbohydrate boost during the colder months. Double-Cross should be planted in the late summer or fall on flat to slightly sloped sites that have loamy, light clays to heavy soils, and that receive a minimum of 30 inches of rainfall per year.

Chicory Plus

Chicory Plus also features Imperial Whitetail Clover as a perennial forage component. The Whitetail Institute’s WINA-100 perennial forage chicory is also included as a component to boost heat and drought tolerance even further. Chicory Plus requires a minimum of 30 inches of rainfall per year, and it should be planted in good quality, heavy soils that hold moisture or that are moderately drained.

Alfa-Rack Plus

Alfa-Rack Plus contains three perennial forage groups: Imperial Whitetail Clover, X- 9 Technology grazing alfalfas, and WINA- 100 perennial forage chicory. It’s specifically designed for sites that receive at least 30 inches of rainfall per year and that have good soils that are well drained and/or are moderately sloped. It’s also an excellent option for good soils in sites that are flat in some areas and sloped in others. In such cases the clovers tend to establish most heavily in the flatter areas of the plot, and the alfalfas and chicory most heavily in the sloped areas, providing a thick, lush stand of highly attractive, high-protein forage across the entire plot.

“Chic” Magnet

“Chic” Magnet is the Whitetail Institute’s WINA-100 perennial forage chicory. Unlike other chicories planted for deer, WINA-100 chicory remains highly attractive and palatable to deer because it doesn’t get tough and stemmy like other chicories sometimes planted for deer. “Chic” Magnet is one of the most versatile forage products the Whitetail Institute offers. It can be planted by itself, added in with other seeds you are planting or overseeded into established food plots to boost the attraction, tonnage, drought tolerance and nutritional content of the stand. A highly attractive, drought-tolerant forage, WINA-100 chicory can grow roots as deep as two to three feet into the soil to find moisture, can tolerate rainfall levels as low as 15 inches per year and adapts well to a wide variety of soil types. When planting “Chic” Magnet by itself, select a site with heavy soils or soils that are moderately well drained.


Edge is the Whitetail Institute’s newest perennial forage product. Designed to provide up to 44 percent protein for up to five years from one planting, Edge includes four perennial forage components that complement each other, providing superb attraction and nutrition in sites with moderately well drained to medium/heavy soils in areas that receive at least 30 inches per year in rainfall. Perennial components include highly attractive, deeply rooted X-9 Technology grazing alfalfas, Persist™ forb, and WINA-100 perennial forage chicory as well as a sainfoin variety specially selected for its preference by deer.


Extreme is a revolutionary forage product designed to attract, hold and grow bigger deer in areas with soil pH as low as 5.4 and with annual rainfall as low as 15 inches per year. (Note: Although Extreme is designed to “tolerate” low soil pH and low rainfall, it performs even better when soil pH and rainfall amounts are higher.) The perennial components in Extreme are Persist forb and WINA- 100 chicory, which are exceptionally palatable, sweet forages that are also highly drought resistant. Extreme is specifically designed to tolerate a wide variety of soils, from good to lighter, as long as the site is well drained.

Coming Soon

In the next issue of Whitetail News, we’ll take a similar look at the Whitetail Institute’s full line of annual forage products. If you’d like to know more about any of the Whitetail Institute’s industry-leading forage products, you can find lots of information at www.whitetailinstitute.com. And if you have any questions, remember that the Whitetail Institute’s highly knowledgeable in-house consultants are just a phone call away at (800) 688-3030. The call and the service are free.