A tractor is required for any large-scale food plot operation. How big a tractor you need will depend on how many plots you have and how easy they are to get to.
They range in horsepower from a few to well over 100. The terrain and workload you will place on your tractor will determine whether or not you need four-wheel drive.
Discs come in a variety of sizes and configurations. There are models with a three-point hitch, as well as larger remote hydraulic models for tractors and jobs that need more power.
A moldboard plow may be required for deep tillage to turn the soil and break up heavy thatch that has accumulated on the surface.
A rotary hoe (or rotavator) is similar to a huge rototiller, except it is powered by a tractor’s power take-off and three-point hitch. Most of the time, these units are used to build finely tilled seedbeds or small plots.
After tilling with a rotary hoe, firm the seedbed with a cultipacker before planting. Walk around the plot to check for proper firmness. The soil should be firm enough to leave a footprint, but no deeper than an inch.
A cultipacker is a handy tool for firming up soil in a seedbed before drilling or broadcasting seed. Some drills are made with packer wheels that harden the soil as you plant, so you don’t need a cultipacker.
Other drills are incapable of achieving this; hence, a cultipacker should be utilized. This is especially true when plants produce little seeds, such as ladino white clover.
Cultipackers are useful tools that can be pulled over the area before and after planting to first firm up the soil before planting and then make sure the seeds make good contact with the soil after planting.
A cultipacker is a much better way to cover seeds after spreading them than dragging a piece of fence or something else across the area.
With the cultipacker, seed coverage is crucial, and firming is much more uniform.
When used appropriately, no-till drills or conventional seeders place the seed at the proper depth in the soil, promoting high rates of plant survival after germination.
If seeds are sown too deeply, the new plant may not have enough energy after germination to drive the developing branch to the surface, where it can get sunlight to continue growing. If seeds are planted too shallow, they may sprout, but the top layer of soil may dry out and kill the plant, making for a poor stand.
Drills and seeders feature separate boxes to segregate large and tiny seeds for sowing. You can place them at various depths by adjusting the drill accordingly.
It’s important to note that mixing large and small seeds might be tricky. Many seed businesses sell seed combinations that are doomed to be partial failures.
When two or more seeds of significantly different sizes are mixed together, some of the seeds may not be planted at the right depth to allow each seed to grow properly.
A sprayer is often needed to keep high-quality, high-yield food plots in good shape. In no-till and certain conventionally tilled areas, weeds must be managed before planting. Weeds like Canada thistle and Johnsongrass are extremely competitive perennial plants that should be eliminated from the planting area before any plowing or seeding takes place.
During the growing season, perennial food plots will need to be mowed to keep them full of plants. Grass and weed competition in food plots can be reduced by mowing alfalfa or clover plots once or twice a year .
Soil nutrients feed forage plants and are essential for maintaining long-lasting, high-yielding food plots. Soil samples should be taken and sent to a lab for analysis to figure out how much and what kind of fertilizer to use..
If you need to raise the pH of your soil, spreading lime is essential. In Ohio, application rates of 2-3 tons per acre are common, necessitating the use of a large-capacity spreader.
If you have a tractor large enough to pull them, you can hire buggies from a local agricultural store or the Soil and Water Conservation District in your area. Many agricultural commodity stores also have lime spreader trucks.
If you buy enough items from them, their drivers will apply the lime for you. However, your terrain must be acceptable for this type of equipment utilization:
There are no-till and traditional corn planters available. Land and Water Conservation Districts often let people rent this kind of equipment for a small fee. Most of these machines need to be hooked up to hydraulics to work, but three-point hitches are also available.
Frost seeding is a method of adding more seed to an existing stand without having to till the soil. If you have bare spots in your food plot and can see the soil, frost seeding may help thicken the stand.
Apply clover seed in February or early March to allow for several freeze-thaw cycles after planting. This helps get the seed into contact with the soil.
When Using Equipment
Safety should always be considered when using and working with equipment. While the equipment is running, make sure to keep shields and guards in place. Wear safety gear when it’s suggested, and don’t let other people ride on the equipment unless it’s made for more than one person to use at once.
Any equipment used should only be used when the soil conditions are favorable. Compaction can be an issue if there is too much soil moisture present while working in a food plot.
Preparing, planting, growing, and maintaining successful food plots necessitates specialized knowledge. Before you try to set up your own food plot, ask questions and watch how others do it. You will improve your chances of having a rewarding and successful experience.