The Perfect Nurse Crop for Fall Perennial Plantings Whitetail Oats Plus Offer Benefits Galore

By William Cousins

 If you’re planning to plant a perennial food plot this fall, also consider planting Whitetail Oats Plus with the perennial as a nurse crop. Doing so can yield many benefits.

What is a Nurse Crop?

A nurse crop is basically a fast-growing secondary crop that’s planted with a primary crop (in this case, Imperial Whitetail Clover, Alfa-Rack Plus, Double-Cross or Fusion) in the same seedbed. Nothing beats Whitetail Oats Plus when it comes to nurse crops to plant with these perennials in the fall.

Fastest Possible Attraction

Several characteristics of Whitetail Oats Plus make it an ideal choice for a nurse crop with a perennial planted in fall. First, all Whitetail Institute food plot seed components are evaluated for rapid emergence and seedling vigor. That’s why all Whitetail Institute food plot products can appear above ground so soon after planting. Whitetail Oats Plus can do so even more quickly and, when planted as a nurse crop, will help the food plot green up more quickly and start attracting deer as soon after planting as possible.

Additional Drought Protection

A nurse crop of Whitetail Oats Plus also works in combination with Rainbond, which is included in the seed coating on the legumes in the Whitetail Institute perennials mentioned. Rainbond protects the seed from germinating on comparatively small amounts of moisture (in some cases, even just with heavy dew) when there’s insufficient moisture in the soil to sustain the seedling. Rainbond also continues to benefit seedlings after germination by helping maintain a more consistent supply of moisture. Rainbond acts as a mini-reservoir of water by absorbing up to 200 times its weight in water from the soil and drawing in more moisture from the soil as the seedling uses it. And because Rainbond is in the applied seed coating, it remains where the seedling is growing so the seedling has ready access to the moisture. Planting a nurse crop of Whitetail Oats Plus with these perennials in fall is a great way to hedge your bets against the chance that Mother Nature will turn off the rain in late summer or early fall, which can slow the growth of the perennial. The plants in Whitetail Oats Plus also have fibrous roots, which help hold the soil in place while the perennials establish. Whitetail Oats Plus also creates a microenvironment of higher humidity near the soil surface that helps reduce evaporation of moisture from the soil. This microenvironment, coupled with the water-holding benefits of the Whitetail Institute’s Rainbond seed coating, can provide even greater protection for the perennial seedlings as they sprout and grow.

Sustained Attraction

Whitetail Oats Plus doesn’t just provide benefits during the first month or two after planting them with a perennial in fall. They continue to boost attraction by adding variety to the stand. (You can find out more about Whitetail Oats Plus and its components in the article on page 18 of this issue.)

How to Prepare the Seedbed and Plant A Fall Perennial with A Nurse Crop of Whitetail Oats Plus

Preparing the seedbed and planting a perennial with a nurse crop of Whitetail Oats Plus is easy. With a couple of simple exceptions, just follow the planting dates for the perennial you’ll be planting. You’ll just need to adjust the seeding preparation and planting instructions a little, as follows:

Seedbed Preparation

As with any forage planting, it’s best to have your soil tested by a qualified soil-testing laboratory such as Whitetail Institute to determine exact lime and fertilizer requirements. If possible, have your soil tested several months before planting so you can add any lime recommended and disk or till it into the seedbed well before planting. When you submit your soil sample to the lab, have the lab test for establishment of the perennial you’ll be planting, not for the nurse crop. If no soil test is performed, add a minimum of two tons of lime per acre to the seedbed. Do not skip this step. Making sure soil pH is neutral (6.5 or higher) is the most important factor you can control to ensure food plot success. Remove as much of the grass and weeds from the seedbed as possible by disking, tilling and/or spraying.

Planting Step 1. When you reach your planting date, start by disking or tilling the soil. Then, before smoothing the disked or tilled seedbed, put out the fertilizer (as called for in your soil-test report, or 400 pounds of 17-17-17 or equivalent fertilizer per acre if you didn’t do a soil test), and broadcast the Whitetail Oats Plus seed at a seed rate of 30 to 45 pounds per acre.

Step 2. After you have put out the fertilizer and Whitetail Oats Plus seed, drag the seedbed to lightly cover the Whitetail Oats Plus seed. This will also smooth the surface of the seedbed sufficiently to prepare it for planting the perennial seed. A cultipacker is not required, but if you have one, it’s OK to cultipack instead of dragging to complete this step.

Step 3. When the seedbed has been smoothed, broadcast the perennial seed at its full seeding rate (shown on the front of the bag).

Step 4. Do not cover the perennial seed. If you used a drag at the end of Step 2, do nothing more after you put out the perennial seed. However, if you used a cultipacker at the end of Step 2, cultipack the seedbed again after putting out the perennial seed to help it establish good contact with the soil. With Mother Nature’s cooperation, your nurse crop of Whitetail Oats Plus will emerge quickly, and you’ll see the perennials emerging soon after. As a final note, the planting instructions for Whitetail Oats Plus, when planted by itself, call for an additional fertilization with 100 pounds of 34-0-0 or equivalent high-nitrogen fertilizer per acre about 30 to 45 days after germination. This additional fertilization isn’t necessary when Whitetail Oats Plus is planted as a nurse crop because the perennial legumes will produce enough nitrogen to maximize the growth of the legumes and the nurse crop of Whitetail Oats Plus. For more information, visit, or call (800) 688- 3030 to speak with one of our knowledgeable in-house consultants. The consultants are available from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. CDT, Monday through Friday. The call and service are free.