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Food Plot Equipment Part 1: What do I really need?

Welcome to 2020! It's a new year and already I've had several conversations with customers who had questions about food plotting equipment. Equipment questions come from both those new to growing food plots as well as from more experienced growers who are expanding the acres that they plant.

New food plotters I talk with are often confused by the advertising-driven hunting media that shows every food plotter driving a new compact tractor and utilizing all kinds of fancy tillage and planting implements to produce stellar plot results.

More experienced growers are often looking to increase their plot acreage and many have also worn out equipment that wasn't of the appropriate size and quality to handle the acres they were using it on.

So here's the question: What do I really need as far as equipment?

It's actually pretty simple, but many growers I talk to are surprised by this. I think the advertising-driven hunting media often gives the impression that food plotting requires way more equipment than is really necessary and unless you've got all the shiny toys, you can't possibly be successful. No way! You simply need to understand your real needs and spend your money wisely.

There are a few basic categories of equipment you really need, or at least need access to, in order to plant and maintain food plots. They are:

  • Pulling Power

  • Tillage

  • Spraying

  • Planting

  • Maintenance

Let's take an overview look at each of these categories. Then, in future blog posts, I'll go in-depth on each category.

Pulling Power - This is the machine you use to pull, haul, or otherwise utilize all the other machines. Most food plotters are using either a tractor of some sort or an ATV/UTV. By the way, I know several very successful food plotters from eastern states that don't use any pulling power at all. They do just fine with rototillers and other walk-behind or hand equipment. There's nothing at all wrong with that, again it's about understanding your own needs.

Tillage - This is the implement (or implements) you use to dig into and turn over the soil to create your seed bed. Most plotters use either a disc, harrow, or tiller. I would also put drags in this category since they are used to help prepare the plot for seed.

Spreading/Fertilizing - The spreader deserves it's own category because for many of us, the spreader serves multiple functions. It spreads fertilizer and lime, but it also serves as our planter. It's very important to get this piece of equipment right.

Spraying - The sprayer, in my opinion, is the piece of equipment that is most under-appreciated In fact, the sprayer is the implement I use the most over the course of a year as far as hours of utilization. Think about your sprayer choice very carefully because most plotters discover that they use this implement far, far more than they at first thought they would.

Planting - Let me get this out of the way. You do not need a dedicated planter. The vast majority of food plotters do just fine by using a broadcast spreader to spread seed. But for some crops, a planting implement is desirable because it makes planting faster, more efficient, and more effective. In the planting category, we also need to consider rollers and cultipackers.

Factors that guide equipment choice

The most important consideration when choosing equipment is to right-size that equipment by considering two factors:

Plot size - both current and desired future expansions. Your plot size will generally be the biggest factor to consider when it comes to choosing equipment. Under-sized equipment will cost you both time and money because it will be slower to use and it will often break more frequently and wear out sooner. Before you buy any equipment, carefully consider both your current and future plans as far as plot size. By far the most common mistake growers make with food plot equipment is buying equipment that is undersized for both current and future needs.

Available time - Some property managers have plenty of time available to work on their plots. Some also benefit from being able to live right there on the property they hunt or very close by, so it's easy to pop out after work on the long summer days and do a little bit of food plot work.

For others, time is much more limited and/or we may have long distances to travel to get to our properties. If this is your situation, if you are willing and able to spend money to save time and to do more with the time they have available, it will make sense to buy bigger and faster equipment. Even though this comes at a higher cost, sometimes the time savings alone make it worth it.

Now that we have the basics established, I'll go in-depth about equipment for each of the main categories I mentioned above.

Next Entry - Food Plot Equipment Part 2: Pulling Power

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