What You Need to Know about Spraying Food Plots

Many people plant food plots to meet certain land management and wildlife objectives. Folks either want to attract wildlife to the area or enhance their property. Either way, spraying the food plot with a herbicide is a good way to kill the unwanted greens competing for nutrients.

We’ll lean on the expertise of Travis Sumner, hunting heritage and habitat specialist for the NWTF, who oversees and manages food plots on the Hunting Heritage Center, for guidance on how to effectively spray food plots.

“People spend a lot of money and time planting food plots and they don’t want to see their plot overrun by weeds and grasses,” Sumner said. “A cost effective way to protect their investment is to get a better understanding of herbicides and accurately spray the food plot.”


“I advise anyone looking to use a herbicide or pesticide to take a course at their local extension office,” Sumner said. “You have to remember you are dealing with chemicals that can be harmful to you and the environment.”

Many people consider spraying herbicides an easy feat, and while it may not require a lot of time or preparation, it’s necessary to read the label and wear gloves and safety glasses toprotect yourself and your surroundings from potential side effects. These classes teach valuable information, from a human and environmental standpoint.


Gallon-sized handheld or backpack sprayers may be best for small fields, while apparatuses for ATVs or tractors are suitable for large fields. Sumner notes sprayers come in all sizes and are made for any job.

“If you have a lot of acreage to spray, it’s probably worth your time and money to invest in one of the larger options,” Sumner said. “If you aren’t in the market to buy, you can usually rent spraying apparatuses from your local ag stores or a place that sells herbicides.”

Sprayer Calibration

Once you have a sprayer, you need to learn how to operate it.

“Calibrating a sprayer is important.” Sumner said. “You shouldn’t be pouring a jug of herbicide into a sprayer and taking off. You need to make sure you spray at the correct rate (gallons per minute), read the directions and calibrate your sprayer correctly for the job at hand.”

Rushing the task can result in errors. The last thing you want to do is spray too much and kill everything, or spray too little and see no results.

Field Visits

“Most fields will benefit from two or three sprays a year, depending on the crop,” Sumner said. “Annual crops, like corn, sunflowers and beans, are more difficult to deal with because they produce a mass crop which can be heavily affected by competition.”

Sprayer Maintenance

There are two reasons to clean out the chemical residue in your sprayer.

One, some chemicals will corrode the inside of your apparatus, and two, leftover chemicals can be harmful to whatever you spray next.

Your To-Do List

Take a course, read the label, follow directions and protect your plot! 

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