Planting wildlife food plots is a common practice, especially for white-tailed deer, Mississippi Extension Service wildlife specialists point out.

Many landowners or club members believe that a properly managed habitat and deer herd includes planted food plots. While the contribution of supplemental plantings to deer management should not be overlooked, more benefit can be realized through manipulation of native habitat.

Practices such as well-timed prescribed burning of pine forests or proper timber harvesting techniques will provide abundant, high-quality forage and cover for deer at little or no cost to the landowner.

Consistently productive food plots require careful thought and planning before they are implemented. Factors to consider include the following.

Location — Plots should be located on fertile soils with adequate drainage. Cover should be located nearby or scattered across the plot. Food plots should not be established near a public road or waterway due to the increased possibility of poaching.

Size — Plot size and shape may vary with local conditions, but to provide adequate sunlight to meet forage production requirements it generally should not be less than 1 acre.

Spacing — Plots should be scattered over the entire property if possible. It is more beneficial to establish 10 plots 2 acres in size than to have a single 20-acre field. Cost may dictate total acreage planted.

Soil testing — To insure productive food plots, conduct soil tests for fertilization and lime requirements. A local county Extension agent can provide information on soil sample collection and where to send samples for analysis. Be sure to list the potential crops to be grown when sending in soil samples for testing.

Planting — Be sure to select a plant species or combination of species that will grow on the particular soil type and site that you have. If unsure, ask the county agent, wildlife biologist, or local seed supplier. Proper seedbed preparation will increase germination and yield more productive food plots.

Plant crops at the prescribed seeding rate and during the proper planting season. It is critical that legume seeds (clovers, peas, beans) be inoculated with nitrogen-fixing bacteria before planting.

Decisions on plant species to use in food plots can be confusing. For more information, consult Wildlife Food Planting Guide for the Southeast at http://msucares.com/pubs/publications/p2111.htm.