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UGUIDE 2023 Food Plot System

March 21, 2023 by

If you’ve had any history with creating food plots for pheasants you probably also have a history of fighting grass weeds like foxtail and sandbur.  Both of these are not a problem for the birds, but for sure are a problem for the dogs.  Eradication of these two troublesome weeds is the #1 objective on our farm.

I’ve been dabbling in deer and pheasant food plots since about 2000; so for over 20 years.  When I bought the farm in South Dakota, the realtor based in Iowa told me, “If you plant 5 acres of Milo (Grain Sorghum) you’ll have every pheasant in the county over there”.  I was like, “Yeah right!”.  Well, he was right!  We had more birds around in the early 2000’s and we had many hunters screaming “I’m outta shells!” in those first few early milo food plots.  Fun, fun, fun!

I’ve learned after a few years of milo on milo plots, the weeds start coming in.  And every other outfitter in South Dakota has the same problem.  Enter good agronomics; crop rotation.  I won’t go into all the reasons, but a good crop rotation that fights diseases and weeds is one that alternates between broadleaves (like soybeans) and grasses (like corn or milo).  Unfortunately, neither corn nor soybeans hunts very well in the fall for pheasants.  It's hard to beat milo planted on 7.5” rows for attracting and holding birds, and for the first time on new soil.  But repeat plantings of milo on the same spot seem to “tire” the soil out.

After attempting many different combinations of plot types and rotations, this is what I have come up with.  We do 60 acres of food plots on our 700 acre farm.  These plots number about 25 total and are about 1-3 acres in size.  These plots are also optimized in size & width to work with my planter/sprayer/mower equipment.  We also deploy a tractor with GPS and autosteer simply because it just does the best job making the work easier and more repeatable year in and out.  And keep in mind, I am not saying I have got this whole thing completely figured out yet, but we’re getting close!

Our 2023 food plot system will consist of Herbicide Tolerant Milo (will get into types later), Roundup Ready Corn and UGUIDE Final Flush Mix from Millborn Seeds.

Herbicide Tolerant Milo.  I’ll plant this at 8-10 lbs to the acre on 7.5” rows and plant ½-1 ½” depth depending on where moisture is located in the soil profile.  I’m using what Corteva calls their Cadillac pre-emergent system and will put down a grass and broadleaf pre-emergent herbicide 6-8 weeks ahead of planting and then a different one at plant 6-8 weeks later.  Typically with application at planting you mix Roundup with it to burn down any existing vegetation.  Now, this is the supposed gamechanger; if your pre-emergent herbicide fails to take care of the grass weeds (which I have found many times it will not completely) you need to have a plan B.  There are 3 new Herbicide Tolerant Milos on the market call IGrowth, Inzen and Double Team.  Each uses a different herbicide called Imiflex, Zest and First Act.  The Imiflex is not labeled for Sandbur and the other two are.  The Zest option gives you two over-the-top grass killing options.  The other two are just one pass over the top (post emergent).  What I’ve learned with chemicals is that you need to become a student of the labels to use them properly in your specific situation and application.  These milos are all new on the market so we’ll need to see what works and what doesn’t.  I’ve got friends in my network trying all three of these different milo types.  I also understand that the Double Team option offers some shorter day maturity options so these may work better for our friends in more northern climates with shorter growing seasons.

The next crop to follow milo is Glyphosate Tolerate Corn.  I like something around the 90 maturity or less.  This year I plan to plant on 15” rows instead of 30” to improve the bird holding characteristics of these corn plots.  Population will be about 30,000 and planting depth from 1.5” to 2.5” depending on soil moisture.  The reason to follow milo with corn is you can load up on chemicals with milo and then the corn to follow in 2nd year will not have any plant back issues with it.  I just use roundup with the corn.  And that keeps this plot type very clean as well.

The 3rd plot type in the rotation is an all broadleaf mix created by UGUIDE & Millborn Seeds called UGUIDE’s Final Flush.  Contact Jason Tronback at Millborn Seeds to inquire.  This mix gives you the option to kill grass weeds at anytime with Clethodim.  We tried this mix in 2022 and it worked well except it was light on bird attracting grain so we added Safflower and Clearfield Sunflowers to the mix.  This mix has the soil rejuvenating benefits to be able to support milo and corn in the rest of the rotation.  I should also mention that this rotation specifically addresses problems with volunteer corn and milo as well, which will be treated with the following year's herbicide program.

And then we start over again with the Herbicide Tolerant Milo because once you have grass weeds in your plots and your plots are in the same locations, you will have that grass weed seed history in your plots for a long time-like 10-20 years.

On fertilizer I like no less than 100 lbs of actual N or Nitrogen per acre with the measure being a pound of N per bushel goal of yield.  I want my plots to feed well over winter so my goal is 100 bushels to the acre for corn and milo.  I should get some nutrient bumps for the broadleaf plot as well.