Drought-Friendly Food Plots

Hot enough for you? Like it or not, it’s a question you will probably hear more frequently in the future. Summers are hotter and drier and they are lasting longer than ever. 

Planting a food plot in a changing climate can be a challenge, especially if you don’t adapt. The good news is that there are options, including seed choices that can withstand drier soils and planting considerations that can compensate for a shortage of rain.

The Right Plant For the Right Spot
Instead of banking on adequate rain to grow anything anywhere, tailor your plot choices to the soil type. Clover, for instance, will grow in sandy or well-drained soil if it gets adequate rain, but it struggles in those places during dry periods. Select sites with dense, heavy soil if you want to plant clover and other shallow-rooted plants. Choose deep-rooted plants like alfalfa, chicory and turnips in sandy or other well-drained soil.

Drought-Friendly Seeds
Those deep-rooted plants need at least some moisture to sprout and get established, of course, but once they do, they can tolerate a lengthy dry spell.

So can some shallow-rooted plants. Some crop varieties that attract deer are already capable of withstanding longer periods of dry weather than others, so look for those if you are concerned about a shortage of rain. Ask your local farm supply store about drought-resistant wheat and beans.

Consider no-till products, too. Disking or tilling your soil will dry it out faster.

Plan When You Plant
Make sure you spread no-till seeds right before rain is in the forecast. Dew can cause top-sown seeds to germinate, but the sprouts will dry up and die if they don’t get adequate moisture after they sprout.

If there is no rain in the foreseeable future, skip plants that require a lengthy maturity process. Some brassicas, for example, take at least 45 days to produce enough foliage to keep deer around through the hunting season. If you won’t get rain in mid to late August, you could be wasting your money.

Instead, choose plants that take less time to become established. Cereal grains like wheat, oats and annual rye need rain to germinate, but you’ll typically see green within days. Even better, those plants will also continue to grow in cooler weather.

Amend The Soil
No amount of rain will make up for poor soil and no amount of fertilizer will overcome a lack of rain. That said, healthy plants are better able to withstand a dry spell than weak ones. That’s why it is critical to conduct a soil test and follow the recommended fertilizer and lime rates.

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