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Farmers prep land for wildlife food plots

Although more individuals are interested in seeding wildlife food plots, primary interest in fall plantings comes from producers who want to improve cool-season forages.

Fescue, including lawn plantings, certain legumes, orchardgrass, ryegrass and small grains are commonly planted each fall. Prepackaged wildlife food plot blends usually include various small grains and legumes.

It isn't unusual for fall rains, accompanied by cooler temperatures, to begin around Sept. 1, with chances elevating during county fair week — which isn't a bit humorous to the county fair boards. Planning is necessary for fall plantings since the simultaneous occurrence of moisture and cooler temperature more or less dictates the success of the venture.

August (or earlier) field or site preparation should begin with mechanical or chemical attention directed toward the elimination of unwanted plants. Most cool-season species can be shallow-seeded by drill or broadcast methods followed by a drag. The desired result is to have seed lightly covered with soil, mulch or thatch.

It isn't unusual for September temperatures to revert to the scorching pattern of August, which can be detrimental to newly sprouted, uncovered seed.

Surface seeding has been successful when timing is extremely fortunate, such as on the front end of a lingering rainy period. No doubt, over the last 50 years thousands of acres of fescue have been successfully seeded in this manner.

At the time, the risk seemed minor when seed were cheap and the rate could be doubled. However, at today's seed and fuel prices, in addition to risking the loss of a forage stand for another year, we have major reasons for lining up all the ducks.

Let's not forget the primary reason for trying to time seeding with favorable moisture and temperature: to ensure rapid and consistent germination of the desired crop.

When germination stretches out for a number of weeks we can end up with a mixed bag, which could include chickweed, henbit, cheat and other fall germinating weeds.

If favorable situations fail to occur, one suggestion is to sit on the sack of seed and wait. Surely the pattern will change by mid-October, long after the county fair.

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