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Turkey Gold Chufa Chat with Tom Hughes, NWTF Director of Research and Outreach

Last week, we asked NWTF members to submit their questions about chufa and had a great response. Read on to learn everything you need to know about planting and caring for your chufa plots.

Q: Without a soil test, what type of fertilizer do you recommend for planting a chufa plot? Should I use a 10-10-10 or 13-13-13 fertilizer? Also, how long should I wait after planting to spray herbicides on my chufa plot without affecting the chufa? Do I need to wait until the chufa has reached a specific maturity level?
—Mark W. Etter, Raleigh, N.C.

A: Triple 10, triple 13 or triple 17 will all work. In the absence of a soil test (which I highly recommend), the goal should be to apply 40 to 50 pounds of each nutrient per acre. For example, 100 pounds of triple 10 will supply 10 pounds per acre of nitrogen (N), and the same for phosphorus (P) and potassium (K). To achieve 40 pounds per acre of NPK, you?ll need 400 pounds per acre of triple 10, 308 pounds of triple 13 and 235 pounds of triple 17. I recommend comparing prices to see which of these blends is the better value; usually it?s triple 17. You can spray at any time in the growth of chufa. For best weed control, you should spray when weeds are small — usually 2 inches in height or less.

Q: Can I bushhog my chufa grass? It has really grown tall.
—William Griffin, Easley, S.C.

A: I would not recommend bush-hogging chufa unless it has really thick, tall weeds. Then, you might set the bushhog very high to cut the weeds without much damage to the chufa. Like most plants, chufa depends on its leaves for photosynthesis, which, of course, allows the tubers to grow. If you cut the leaves, you cut the photosynthesis, too.

Q: I've heard about chufa and I understand turkeys love it. What is chufa and do turkeys really go for it like I hear?

A: Chufa is a relative of nutsedge, which produces underground tubers that turkeys relish. A single chufa plant may produce well over 100 peanut-sized tubers. As chufa matures in the fall, turkeys often visit a chufa plot every day to scratch up and eat the tubers. Wild turkey biologists and managers have long noticed that turkey movement patterns and roost locations often shift in response to the location of chufa plots.

Q: I know that some types of nutsedge are considered noxious and invasive. Is that true of chufa?

A: No. Research and experience have shown that chufa is not invasive and will not spread to other areas. It also will not cross with it its noxious relatives — yellow and purple nutsedge.

Q: Can I grow chufa in my area?

A: As a general rule of thumb, if you can grow corn where you live, you can grow chufa.

Q: How do I plant chufa? How much seed do I need to use?

A: You can broadcast, drill or row-plant chufa. Make sure you prepare the soil well by using a disk harrow before planting. Fertilize at about one-half to three-quarters the soil test recommended rate for corn. To help prevent annual grass competition, spray two pints of trifluralin per acre before planting your chufa, and incorporate the trifluralin with a disk harrow within 24 hours. If you broadcast your seed, plan to use 50 pounds of seed (actually tubers) per acre and cover the seed with a disk harrow to a depth of about 2 inches. If you drill the seed, plan on using about 35 pounds per acre, but be sure to test your drill prior to planting to make sure the drill rollers do not crush the seeds. Row planting works very well where it is feasible. Plant 25 to 30 pounds of seed per acre, use big corn plates, soybean plates or peanut plates, and test the planter before use to make sure the seeds are dropping properly.

*Note: The recommended fertilization rate for corn varies depending on where you live. To determine this rate, have your soil tested.

Q: What's the best time to plant chufa?

A: The best planting time for chufa depends on where you live. Chufa needs at least 90 frost-free days to mature. In the northern states, this may mean the best planting date is in late May or early June. In the southern states, depending on rainfall, you may plant chufa throughout July and in some areas even into early August.

Q: I've planted my chufa and it appears to be coming up well, but a lot of grass and some broadleaf weeds are coming up with the chufa. Should I be worried about this and what can I do about it?

A: You definitely don't want weed competition in your chufa plot if you can help it. For grass competition, use 1.5 to 2 pints of Poast herbicide per acre (see the herbicide label for non-cropland use) along with one quart per 100 gallons of solution of crop oil concentrate as a surfactant. Surfactants are wetting agents that lower the surface tension of a liquid to allow easier spreading and lower the interfacial tension between two liquids. If you also have broadleaf weeds such as coffee weed and pigweed, use 1.5 pints per acre of 2,4-DB (also called Butyrac 175), but do not use 2,4-D because it may kill the chufa. You may use this mixture alone or in a tank mixed with the Poast. In either case, use the same rate of crop oil concentrate as recommended for the Poast mixture.

Q: Are there other herbicide options for my chufa?

A: You may substitute Fusilade for Poast, but those are about your only options if you have broadcast or drilled your chufa at planting. If you have row planted and you have access to a hooded sprayer, you can spray glyphosate herbicide between the rows at a rate of 1 to 2 quarts per acre. Check the herbicide label for recommended rates for most weed species. Note that you must use a hooded sprayer to do this because glyphosate will kill chufa if it contacts the plant.

Q: Do I have to replant chufa every year?

A: It depends of how hard the turkeys have hit your chufa plot during the winter and spring. Many times, you may have enough tubers left over to produce a new crop without replanting. Check your plot for new chufa sprouts during late spring or early summer. If you see sprouts, prepare the plot as though you were planting for the first time, including disking, fertilizing and applying trifluralin. Look for more chufa sprouts in one week to 10 days. For best production, there should be about 10 inches between sprouts. If sprouts are much sparser than this, you should replant. If the sprouts are much thicker, disking the area again should reduce the number of sprouts to achieve the right spacing.

Q: Is Turkey Gold Chufa really better than other brands of chufa?

A:Turkey Gold Chufa germinates at a rate of well over 90 percent. Most chufa on the market has a much lower germination rate. Be sure to check the germination rate on the label of other brands for comparison. We are confidant you will see that Turkey Gold Chufa is the best.

Q: Is there any pre-seed treatment that would deter raccoons, crows, turkeys and other animals from digging up seed before establishment? I was wondering if red pepper applied to the seed would deter this.
— William Chambers, Waynesboro, Ga.

A: I am not aware of any seed treatment currently being marketed that will keep animals from digging up chufa. But a mixture of red pepper or something similar may work, and would be worth a try. At worst, I don't think it would do any harm.