For many years now food plotters have been infatuated with attempting to grow and produce soybeans in food plots. If we were honest with ourselves, I think most people would be disappointed in their efforts. In many instances, soybeans are either planted too early, too deep, not thick enough, or they simply become over-browsed and are not able to fully grow and provide ample forage throughout the growing season. This can be defeating and frustrating for food plotters.
One way to combat this is by planting blends. By planting blends, you utilize other food plot varieties to help shade and protect soybeans from being over-browsed. However, it’s important to note that soybeans are not the only food plot crop out there. There are many other varieties of food plots that offer similar tonnage, protein, and produce attractive food for many months out of the year. It is important to first know that multi-species blends should be planted in areas with prior herbicide usage.
Let’s break this down. When creating a new food plot, you are contending with the seed bank. The seed bank, when exposed to sunlight and moisture, will produce new growth in the form of weeds. Some of the most commonly seen weeds are ragweed, mare’s-tail, pigweed, water hemp, pokeweed, and many others depending on your region. These species, although some may have benefits, are often looked at as being troublesome. These native weeds, when growing, can outcompete non-native food plot varieties that are also getting browsed heavily leaving you with a weed plot (which really isn’t all that bad, but we’ll cover that in a different blog post).
To address these seeds in the seed bank, we advise using a round-up ready crop such as corn, soybeans, or milo for one to two growing seasons prior to planting a highly diverse blend. Why? Well, when you plant a round-up ready variety, you have the ability to apply an herbicide prior to planting that targets early growing season weeds but also during the growing season that targets a later emerging weed. Multiple herbicide applications at different times will help reduce the weed seedbed in this food plot. Once a seedbed has been reduced, your efficiency and success of planting a multi-species blend are drastically increased. A multi-species blend such as the Heritage Blend by Stratton Seed Company has eleven different species. Each one of these species is included in the mix to accomplish a different job. This could be to mine certain nutrients or to infiltrate water better in the soil, or to increase the forage growing in the plot palatable to deer. Multi-species blends can handle extreme growing conditions better than a monoculture. When you have eleven different species, some may do better during a drought than others and some may do better with frequent rains. Planting a multi-species blend is an added insurance policy for your food plot but the first step to this is reducing the weed seedbed by planting a round-up ready crop. Think of the round-up ready crop not as a food plot variety, but a tool. Similar to a chainsaw, a round-up ready crop, when establishing new food plots, is simply a tool used to create a better overall product.
This tool allows you to then produce ample forage and tonnage in the given acres while improving soil health in those same acres. Oftentimes, food plotters try to replicate farmers. This is where they fail. The end goal is not the same. The goal for food plotters should be tonnage not maximum yield for a certain seed variety. The scale in which farmers operate is vastly different than those of food plotters, so the same techniques may not apply from the agricultural world to the food plot world. Soybeans, for a food plotter, should be the tool used prior to planting high diversity blends such as the Heritage Blend.