Not many food plotters will argue – when it comes to planting food plots for deer – brassicas are near the top of the list. They produce a lot of tonnage and are less expensive than grain plots like corn or soybeans. They are fairly easy to plant, provide good protein, and deer will pound them all winter long.
Common Types of Brassicas
Brassica plants are in the mustard family. For deer managers the most common brassica plants are rapeseed, kale, turnips, radish, and swede. Any of these in a stand alone or mix can be a deadly combination for attracting deer.
There are many different varieties and brands of brassicas for deer but here are some of the favorites preferred by most plotters.
A lot of times, although not technically a brassica, sugar beets are thrown into the mix for more variety and attraction.
Nutritional Value for Deer
Brassica plants as a group are a cool season annual. They are highly digestible and score good in the protein category. Protein can range from 15% to 20% in the leaves and just slightly less in the roots.
Deer tend to leave young immature plants alone because they are bitter which will give your brassica plot time to mature. Brassicas like turnips, rape, and forage radishes will mature in 60-90 days depending on soil type and pH. Brassica plants prefer soil pH close to 6.8 but will tolerate more acidic conditions.
Because of the fast maturity, brassicas make a great late season plot. In the Midwest we normally plant in August and by prime hunting season the plants are mature. In your area, plant 60-90 days before the first killing frost. Once the first frost occurs, a molecule change in the plant makes them more palatable to deer and this is when brassicas will get pounded. They will stay green even under snow and deer will dig them up all winter long and into early spring.
Fertilization and Weed Control
Brassicas require a lot of nitrogen to do really well. Spread about 60#’s of actual nitrogen per acre and use your soil test to determine the amount of P and K needed. If no soil test is available, apply 200-400#’s per acre of 6-24-24 or 10-26-26 along with 150-200#’s of urea per acre.
For killing grasses invading your brassica plot, you can use a select herbicide like Arrow just like you would for a clover plot. You can also apply a pre-emergence herbicide to the soil just before planting to control most annual grasses and broadleaf weeds.
Brassica Planting Methods
Seeds can be no-till drilled or broadcast onto a firm seedbed at the rate of 2-5#’s per acre. For drilling, plant in undisturbed ground no more than 1/2″ deep. To broadcast seed, first disc or till the ground then cutipack soil, broadcast seed, and pack again. I like to run the cultipacker over the bed even after drilling the seed to get better seed to soil contact.
For a great mid to late season food plot for hunting and to provide nutrition to the deer through winter, try a brassica plot – I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.