I don’t know about you but I’m getting excited about planting cool season food plots! Now is the time to get those soil samples tested and start planning for this upcoming hunting season. Once we get our soil pH adjusted and our forages chosen, we need to turn our attention to weed management. There’s nothing more disappointing than growing weeds instead of what we planted.
Clover Food Plot Photo credit: Jennifer Bearden
A simple strategy is to start with a burn down treatment with a non-selective herbicide such as glyphosate. This is a safe and effective way to kill most everything growing in the food plot area. We want to apply the burn down treatment 2-4 weeks prior to planting. This will allow sufficient time for the herbicide to move into the plants and kill them.
Next step is preparing the seedbed. If the site is very weed infested, you may switch up these first two steps. Till first and wait a few weeks for new plants to emerge, then burn down weeds that emerge with a non-selective herbicide. Either way, we want a clean seedbed to plant into.
Next comes planting our desired forages. Remember that weed control becomes more difficult when we mix broadleaf plants with grasses. It’s not impossible however. Planting rate has a lot to do with weed control. If our planting rate is too low, we allow spaces for weeds to establish. Plant forages using the upper end of the seeding rate to help control weeds.
Follow up weed control options will depend on the planted forages, weeds growing and forage growth stage. We can use strategies such as mowing, selective herbicides and weed wiping with non-selective herbicides. When planting just clovers, you can refer to the following publication for chemical control options, https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/publication/wg214. When planting small grains, 2,4-D and dicamba are good options for broadleaf weeds. These need to be applied when small grains have fully tillered but have not jointed. We get better weed control when we apply herbicides to younger weeds. Weed wiping is a great option when weeds are taller than the desired forage. Here’s a good publication on weed wiper technology and use – https://www.noble.org/globalassets/docs/ag/pubs/soils/nf-so-11-06.pdf.
For help identifying weeds and control strategies, contact your local county extension office.
We’re waging war on an invasive weed, Cogongrass. Cogongrass was accidently brought into Mobile, Alabama in the early 1900’s as packing material. It was later planted in Florida and other states as a potential forage and soil stabilizer. It has low forage value and is on the Federal Noxious Weed List.
This weed can spread through both creeping rhizomes and seeds. It quickly displaces desirable grasses and plants. The roots of Cogongrass may produce allelopathic chemicals helping it out-compete other plants for space. It is drought and shade tolerant. A single plant can produce 3,000 seeds. Cogongrass is yellow/green in color with an off-set midrib and a fluffy white seed head and it grows in circular colonies.
Mowing and burning will not eradicate Cogongrass instead doing so while the plants are flowering can cause spread of seeds. Herbicide options are non-selective and kill most native ground cover such as grasses. Ridding an area of a Cogongrass infestation requires intensive management. For small infestations (less than 20-30 feet in diameter), treat the area with glyphosate once in the fall and once in the spring for 3 years (or until eradicated). For larger infestations, a more integrated approach may be necessary. Deep tilling of the soil may help in some cases.
Cogongrass is not easy to control. It takes a coordinated effort from government agencies and private landowners to work together to rid an area of this invasive weed. For more information, you can go to https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/wg202 or contact your local extension agent.
Sounder of hogs in a corral trap. Photo Credit: Jennifer Bearden
Aliens are invading our forests, pastures, fields and lawns. Well, okay, it’s not aliens but it is invasive species. Invasive species are species that are non-native to the ecosystem under consideration and whose introduction causes or is likely to cause economic or environmental harm or harm to human health. These invasive species have become the number one threat to biodiversity on protected lands. However, invasive species do not know boundaries, and as a result, public, private lands, natural and man-made water bodies, and associated watersheds are all affected as well.
EDDMaps (Early Detection and Distribution Mapping System), a web-based mapping system for reporting invasive species, currently has 667 different invasive plants reported in Florida. Many invasive insects, animals and diseases have also landed in Florida. Some famous invasive species in Florida include cogongrass, wild hogs, red imported fire ants, Chinese tallow, and lionfish.
You can help us control invasive species in several ways:
Always be cautious when bringing plants or plant materials into the state. Plants or even dead plant material can harbor weeds, insects and diseases that can become invasive in our state.
When you see something suspicious, contact your local extension agent for help identifying the weed, insect or disease.
You can volunteer your time and effort. Invasive species control is difficult and requires a cooperative effort for funding and manpower. The state has several Cooperative Invasive Species Management Areas (CISMA) in which public and private organizations work together to control invasive species in their area. These CISMAs hold work days in which volunteers can help remove invasive species from the environment. https://www.floridainvasives.org/cismas.cfm
For more information about invasive species, contact your local county extension agent.
As hunters and wildlife enthusiasts we tend to focus on wildlife behavior and biology during hunting season but tend to forget about them during the summer months. But the summer months are very important to our population numbers. Hunting season includes mating season, but now the babies are hitting the ground and the real fun is in full swing.
Whitetail deer are busy growing the new crop of fawns and growing antlers (for the bucks). Bucks lose their antlers in the spring after rut and grow new ones this time of year. For the most part, bucks grow bigger antlers each year until they peak around age 5-6. Several factors enter into antler growth including age, genetics and nutrition. You can’t change age or genetics easily but you can supply good nutrition as they are growing new antlers right now. The added nutrition will also help the does that are fawning and nursing those fawns right now.
Wild turkey hens are busy raising their poults alone. They breed and nest in the spring each year. It only takes about 28 days of sitting on the nest for the eggs to hatch. The poults are learning how to eat and groom themselves as well as how to roost and get away from predators. Poults that have survived to this point have a good chance of making it to adulthood. They will rejoin the larger population in the fall.
Warm season supplemental nutrition provides food sources when population numbers are at their highest. Deer are nutritionally stressed due to antler growth and fawn rearing. Turkey hens are finding places to feed their poults. This supplemental nutrition can come in the form of grains provided in wildlife feeders or in food plots. Food plots during the warm season are an underutilized nutrition source. We can grow many highly nutritious forage crops for wildlife during the summer. Some great choices include millet (brown top, pearl, dove proso), sunn hemp, clay peas, cowpeas, hairy indigo, perennial peanut, Aeschynomene Americana, alyceclover and more.
Chinese Tallow, also known as the Popcorn Tree, was introduced in the US over 200 years ago. Ben Franklin sent seeds over in 1772. Although Franklin was blamed for the invasion in the U.S. Gulf Coast, scientists performed genetic testing and have concluded that the blame actually lies with federal biologists who imported some Chinese tallow trees around 1905. Popcorn trees have continued to spread throughout the US since then.
For many years, people have planted them in their landscape for shade and fall color. Once established, they invade natural areas, pastures, wetlands and yards. They out-compete native and non-invasive trees and shrubs. In 1998, Chinese Tallow was added to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Noxious Weed list. Plants on the Florida Noxious Weed list may not be introduced, possessed, moved, or released without a permit.
Landowners and homeowners can help with this problem tree by removing and replacing them with a native or non-invasive tree like black gum, maple, dogwood, or crepe myrtle. Mature trees can be cut down with a saw and the stump promptly treated with an herbicide with the active ingredient, triclopyr amine. You should try to make the final cut as low to the ground as possible. You can use a paint brush to apply the herbicide to the stump. A basal bark application of triclopyr ester plus a basal oil carrier can be used on smaller trees. Treat the trunk to a height of 12 to 15 inches from the ground, thoroughly wetting it with the herbicide mixture. Basal bark treatments are only effective on saplings and seedlings less than 6 inches in stem diameter. Sometimes suckers may sprout from remaining roots. A foliar application can be used on these sprouts from July to October, before onset of fall color.