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Recommended varieties for cool season wildlife food plots

By Ray Bodrey
Gulf County Extension Director UF/IFAS Special to The Star

Planting wildlife forages has become a great interest in the Panhandle. North Florida does have its challenges with sandy soils and seasonal patterns of lengthy drought and heavy rainfall. With that said, varieties developed and adapted for our growing conditions are recommended. Forage blends are greatly suggested to increase longevity and sustainability of crops that will provide nutrition for many different species.  

In order to be successful and have productive wildlife plots. It is recommended that you have your plot’s soil tested and apply fertilizer and lime according to soil test recommendations. Being six weeks from optimal planting, there’s no time like the present. 

Below are some suggested cool season wildlife forage crops from UF/IFAS Extension. Please see the UF/IFAS EDIS publication, “A Walk on the Wild Side: 2019 Cool-Season Forage Recommendations for Wildlife Food Plots in North Florida” for specific varieties, blends and planting information. https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/pdffiles/AG/AG13900.pdf 

Winter legumes are more productive and dependable in the heavier clay soils of northwest Florida or in sandy soils that are underlain by a clay layer than in deep upland sands or sandy flatwoods. Over seeded white clover and ryegrass can grow successfully on certain flatwoods areas in northeast Florida. Alfalfa, clovers, vetch and winter pea are options of winter legumes. 

Cool-season grasses generally include ryegrass and the small grains: wheat, oats, rye, and triticale (a human-made cross of wheat and rye). These grasses provide excellent winter forage and a spring seed crop which wildlife readily utilize 

Hairy Vetch

Brassica and forage chicory are annual crops that are highly productive and digestible and can provide forage as quickly as 40 days after seeding, depending on the species. Forage brassica crops such as turnip, swede, rape, kale and radish can be both fall- and spring-seeded. Little is known about the adaptability of forage brassicas to Florida or their acceptability as a food source for wildlife. 

For more information, contact Gulf County Extension at 639-3200 or email at rbodrey@ufl.edu. *Due to COVID-19, our physical office location is closed to public traffic at this time. However, please call or email us for assistance with extension related needs. Sorry for the inconvenience.  

UF/IFAS Extension is an Equal Opportunity Institution.