End-of-season 2020 Food Plot Update
I love everything about the upper-Midwest. Except the short growing season! Hard to believe, but the days have been getting shorter for almost two months now and summer is fading fast.
So how did your food plots do this summer? I can't recall a recent year that had such varied conditions across the Midwest. Just in Minnesota, there was everything from full-on drought conditions in some areas and then 60 miles away there were flooded plots and fields. A very unusual summer.
Here's the end-of-growing-season report from the Midwest Monster home farm.
At the Midwest Monster home farm in east-central Minnesota, we had a nearly ideal summer and early fall as far as growing conditions. Our streak of nearly ideal growing weather continued all the way to the end of the 2020 growing season.
Our first hard frost hit on September 18. This is actually in line with the 20-year average first frost in my area, but compared to recent years it felt very early.
Clover and Perennial Plots
I keep more than half of my total plot acres in Midwest Monster perennial blends like Mega Clover Plus and AlfalfaMAX. The clover blends continued to grow well in the late season, but I did struggle with a bad late season weed problem. I still don’t know what this weed was, but it produced a thick tangle of vines mainly in shaded areas of the plots. I first noticed this weed in August, but by early September it got so bad that I had to spray the entire clover plot.
I can report that 2,4,DB worked well to kill this broadleaf nuisance. Please note that 2,4,DB is NOT the same as 2,4,D which will kill clover. DB is a clover-safe broadleaf killer. It is often referred to by the trade name, Butryac. I have never had to spray this late in the year to control weeds, but this mess was so out of control it was taking over the plot in places.
Below: Name that weed! Readers, if you can help me identify this mystery weed in my clover plots, please drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Overall, this was another great year for our perennial plot blends. The tonnage produced throughout the season makes Mega Clover Plus and AlfalfaMAX blends a food plotting must-have for our property. Nothing outshines the attractiveness and season-long attraction of these blends.
Below: Mega Clover Plus plot at mowing time (June 16, 2020). Mowing in June gives the plots time to fully recover their height and provide maximum tonnage for the fall season.
Food Plot Soybeans
I plant both Eagle Forage Soybeans and Real World Gen 2 wildlife soybeans in my plots. Yes, they’re both soybeans, but that’s where the similarity stops. Eagle and Real World are different products for different purposes.
To recap my view on these soybean varieties: The Eagles excel at feeding deer through the summer and early fall because they produce tons of tasty leaves and the deer are crazy for this tender, high-protein forage. The Real World beans are all about aggressive growth and high-protein pod production to feed the deer after everything else is dead and covered with snow.
Both soybean varieties hit it out of the park this year. Absolutely a stellar year for soybeans. The pictures tell the story, it was just a bumper crop of soybeans this year with both the Eagle and Real World products producing nearly perfect plots.
Real World Gen 2: The soybean pod yield from this variety was nothing short of fantastic in 2020. Pods everywhere! We counted over 50 pods on a single plant during one plot survey! The deer, of course, were all over the soybeans, but there were so many that the plot lasted into late October and produced plenty of good bow season activity.
Very few food plot crops produce the kind of late fall attraction that soybeans do. The deer came to the Real World plot from long distances, but even with huge browsing pressure they pods lasted into the last week of October.
Below: Look at the pods! Real World Gen 2 soybean plot on September 27. Notice the massive volume of pods that the Real World beans produced this year.
Eagle Forage Soybeans: The Eagle Forage Soybeans did exactly what they are supposed to do. They grew big, tall, bushy plants and when the PlotSAVER system came down, the deer were in the plot at all times of the day and night. The purpose of growing Eagle Forage Soybeans goes beyond just a hunting plot. The protein on the leaves and stems is highly effective at growing bigger deer that are healthy and therefore better able to withstand the rigors of winter.
As usual, when early fall came and the nights started getting cooler, the deer simply can't leave the Eagle plants alone. Staring in late August, the browsing pressure was constant, and even our super-shy 10 pointer we call Mr. Big was a regular daytime visitor to the plot.
Below: Eagle Forage Soybean closeup of the massive leaves and thick foliage. Picture taken September 3, 2020. Note the PlotSAVER ribbon in the background.
Below: Eagle Forage Soybean plot. Picture taken September 3, 2020. The green forage is highly attractive to deer all summer and into the early fall. Deer prefer the green forage until the frost kills the plants.
Below: Eagle Forage Soybeans. Another terrific growing year in 2020.
As I mentioned in the mid-summer update, we planted our Brassicas Bender blend on July 1. I've said it many times but it bears repeating: The biggest mistake that northern tier food plotters make is planting brassicas too late! Late June through early or mid July is the planting target time for northern tier growers if you want to achieve anything close to maturity. Sunlight grows plants! Once the sun angle begins to decline and the daily heat unit count takes a nosedive, there is simply not enough sunlight each day for the plants to pack on the maximum size.
As of early fall, we had a very nice brassicas crop at the Midwest Monster Home Farm. Our goal with brassicas is to be consistent, it's nice to have huge brassicas, but our goal is to produce consistent tonnage so the food is there for the deer as far into the winter as possible.
This year's Brassicas Bender crop had the deer coming in at all times and it lasted all the way into mid-December before the deer finally cleaned up the last of the crop.
Below: Our Brassicas Bender plot on October 3. Notice the leaves are still green and the plants are still growing at this point in the season.
Below: This picture is to show the spacing that is needed with brassicas crops. If you over-crowd brassicas, their growth will be stunted and they will not achieve full size. Notice the space surrounding most plants in the picture below, there is 6+ inches around most plants. Some would argue that even this spacing is too close, but the point is if you have brassicas plants touching each other, they are far too close.
If ever there can be an ideal year as far as growing conditions, for us at the Midwest Monster farm, 2020 was that year. An early thaw let us get in the plots early and we had timely moisture throughout the growing season. All of this without any excessive heat or dry spells. It would have been nice if our first frost had come later as it has in the past 3 years, but that is a minor complaint overall.
We hope your 2020 produced fulfilling results. As always, we're here to help you be successful. If you have questions or need advice, contact us by phone or email and we'll help you grow your own Midwest Monster.