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Firebreaks Make Good Food Plots

Every year, James Edmunds II, of Halifax, Va., uses prescribed fire on about 300 acres to enhance his property for wildlife. To keep the fire from moving into areas that do not need burning, Edmunds has cut firebreaks around and through his property, which he plows before setting his burn.

“Burning my property on a three-year rotation eliminates wildfire fuel and opens the area to new plant growth,” Edmunds said.

Forest managers have long used firebreaks — strips of land plowed around fields and forests — to prevent fire from spreading into unwanted areas. However, some managers overlook firebreaks as an opportunity to provide food and cover to wildlife and opportunities to hunters.

Planted firebreaks provide food and cover to wildlife with minimal effort on part of the landowner. Firebreaks are created to prevent fire from spreading, but can easily be put to multiple uses.

“Since firebreaks are plowed every few years, they make excellent food plots,” said Mark Hatfield, NWTF director of strategic conservation planning. “Planting a cool season grass on a firebreak prevents soil erosion, and provides an excellent food source to wildlife.”

Clover mixes, available in NWTF’s online retail store OutdoorDealHound.com, grow well in shaded firebreaks, and perennials such as clover reseed for up to five years and provide a low-maintenance cover for firebreaks.

Annual mixes, such as wheat, oats, millet and rye grass also work well on firebreaks, but must be planted yearly unless the firebreak is to be allowed to return to native browse. Some landowners use this combination by planting clover and then over sowing with annual crops.

“It’s good to plant annuals with perennials such as wheat with clover,” Hatfield said. “This provides wildlife with a variety of food, including the new plants that grow as a result of the fire.”

Before conducting a winter or early spring prescribed burn, plow the firebreaks around the area to be burned. After conducting the burn, plant the firebreak in clover and grasses that will grow through summer and fall into winter. In many southern regions of the country, firebreaks can be planted immediately after plowing to provide a fall food plot to wildlife.

“Prescribed fire and food plots are two of the easiest and best ways to enhance habitat for wildlife,” said James Earl Kennamer, Ph.D., NWTF chief conservation officer. “Done in conjunction with one another, these tools will bring more wildlife to your property.”

For more information about using firebreaks for food plots, prescribed fire or the NWTF, call (800) THE-NWTF.

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