The Permanent, “Poor Man’s” Food Plot
By Pete Berthelsen, Pheasants Forever Senior Field Coordinator
Throughout the year, I’m often contacted by landowners that have questions about their food plot projects and their frequent frustrations over not producing the food plot results they originally had in mind. When those discussions happen, I run the landowner through the “Food Plot Test,” which consists of the following questions.
1. Do you lack the time or equipment to perform cultivation, fertilizing and spraying your food plot?
2. Do you have a hard time getting traditional food plot mixes to grow in your soil conditions?
3. Do you struggle getting traditional food plot mixes to grow in your moisture conditions?
4. Do you typically plant your food plots and then walk away?
5. Do you want to place food plots in the same location each year?
6. Are your management goals to provide great pheasant and quail habitat?
7. Are you interested in food plots that will naturally reoccur year after year once established?
8. Are you interested in food plots that can be established by broadcast seeding?
9. Do deer often eat your food plots before they can provide the desired benefit to birds?
If your answer was “Yes” to at least four of these questions, you should consider planting your next food plot to Giant Ragweed. Giant Ragweed is a native, annual plant that grows from 3’ to 12’ tall. It goes by many names, but this plant common across most of the country is a powerhouse when it comes to producing seeds that are valuable to wildlife, especially upland game birds like pheasants, quail and prairie chickens.
A food plot of Giant Ragweed offers the following advantages:
1. Provides a food source that has some of the highest usable energy values for wildlife: a key bonus to getting birds through the winter in better physical condition to produce increased nesting results the following spring.
2. A food plot that can be established with simple disking and broadcast seeding as well as traditional planting with a drill.
3. Once planted, you can walk away and not have to cultivate, fertilize and spray. The plant is an early succession species and will perform well in conditions with minimal attention and management. In addition, it will do well in many soil types including sandy and poor soil types.
4. While an annual plant, Giant Ragweed can be encouraged to return year after year as your food plot with a simple light disking. In personal habitat projects, Giant Ragweed plots have consistently maintained themselves for 6 years with little to no management.
5. Giant Ragweed is typically not attractive to deer, so these food plots should easily be around in the fall and through winter for upland game birds.
6. When you consider the savings associated with time, spraying, fertilizing and multiple years of benefits, it’s probably the least expensive food plot you can plant!
Give this ‘Permanent’ Food Plot option a try this year. You’ll be surprised at how easy it is to make this one of the most productive food plots on your property.
Giant Ragweed seed is available through Pheasants Forever. Orders can be placed by calling (308) 428-3062.
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