QUESTION: How much sunlight does a food plot need, e.g., one that might be planted inside the woods in small openings? --- Jim B.
ANSWER: Plants need three things to grow: sunlight, moisture and nutrients. In general, how well they grow depends on the relative amount of each.
Individual plant species have adapted to a range of conditions. Some exist in arid environments while others can tolerate prolonged inundation. Some grow best in direct sunlight while others are more shade tolerant.
How well a food plot grows in a forest opening depends on several variables. One is the size of the opening. The larger the opening, the better the growth.
Another is canopy closure in the surrounding forest. A relatively open canopy will allow more sunlight to reach the forest floor.
Which species you plant can also be important. As mentioned above, some species are more shade-tolerant than others.
Some also require less seed-bed preparation. This has prompted a recent proliferation of niche blends, designed specifically for what Dr. Grant Woods refers to as "hidey hole" food plots.
Several seed companies have developed blends specifically designed for areas that are difficult to access with farming equipment - areas like logging roads and forest opening plots. They can be planted with minimal ground preparation so long as you do enough to establish good seed-to-soil contact.
These blends generally contain selected cereal grains, annual clovers and brassica, which establish quickly and grow rapidly in as little as three to four hours of broken or filtered sunlight a day.