Kip Adams, who works for the National Deer Association and who is a whitetail habitat expert, is a big believer in keeping food plots “covered” throughout the year.
The best way to keep a plot covered is to have some plants growing in it for as many months as possible. As different varieties of plants grow in a plot, they hold the soil and help to continuously build organic matter. That is why cover cropping has become so big in commercial agriculture. Farmers used to harvest corn or soybeans, and then leave the soil open until the next planting season. Now they seed winter wheat, winter rye or brassicas onto those harvested row crop fields.”
A good example in food plots for deer would be to plant soybeans to feed the animals during summer and fall, and then broadcast brassica seeds into the same plot just before the beans canopy (some 60-75 days after beans are planted). “The brassica seeds would just sit and wait until the soybeans matured, and as soon as their leaves wilted and sun reached the ground, the brassicas would germinate and grow up through the bean stalks,” says Kip. “The soil between the rows of beans is then “covered” with brassica plants. A double attraction for deer!”
A huge benefit of cover cropping a plot is moisture retention. Keep a plot covered in summer and for as much of the year as possible, and keep building up that organic matter. “A simple 1% increase in organic matter in a plot saves an extra 20,000 gallons of water per acre,” says Kip.