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Planting for wildlife? Take a look at the edges

Photo courtsey Arkansas Game and Fish CommissionFrom the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission

-- A common first thought when considering habitat for wildlife are food plots. Clear a patch of ground, disc it and plant things that deer, turkey and other game and non-game animals eat.

It works. Food plots have proven successful for decades now.

Along with a desire to work and improve conditions, all an interested person needs is the land, the place owned, leased, rented or accessible with just a handshake, to do this planting.

Also possibilities or companions to food plots are edges, according to the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission

The edges of fields used for agricultural crops are potentially attractive for habitat management and improvement for more than one reason.

The edges of farm fields are often areas of below-ideal production. If the field adjoins a creek or other water, the edges can be wet. The edges are where farm machinery turns around and where planters may miss sowing solidly.

The edges also adjoin woods and other borders. Woods are where deer and other wildlife hang out, so the edges of fields growing soybeans are where the animals feed first.

Photo courtsey Arkansas Game and Fish CommissionThe potential for edges, then, is that planting a strip with wildlife food may be attractive to the wildlife and to the farmer who has a wildlife depredation problem. The theory is to provide attractive food close to the sheltering woods, and deer may leave the soybeans alone – or at least not hit them as hard.

Suggestions for edge planting are varied, with clover often near the top of recommendations from wildlife biologists. Many varieties of clover are available, including some pricey wildlife gourmet mixes that are overly touted as sure routes to bigger-racked bucks. Seed of common white clover and red clover is much less expensive.

Brad Miller, deer program coordinator for the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, suggested that persons wanting to plant edges create their own mixes based on what is suitable for land in their areas.

Also popular are peas in several varieties. Partridge peas are a favorite for quail and are used by many other species of wildlife. Cowpeas is a broad category that includes the familiar black-eyed pea, especially the purple hulls so widely enjoyed in Arkansas and across the South. Austria winter pea is a wildlife-liked plant that does well in cooler weather. Grains like oats, wheat and grain sorghum are edge planting possibilities.

Wildlife biologists view plantings, whether food plots or edges, as supplemental. Deer, birds and other wild animals do well on their own year-round except in occasional periods of prolonged bad weather. Giving them a helping hand in the form of plantings can be beneficial.

The biologists also point out that although deer consume a wide variety of plant species throughout the year, supplemental plantings can be beneficial.

Miller said, “Although a variety of factors such as deer density, habitat diversity and existing agriculture practices can affect the importance of supplemental plantings, it has been well-demonstrated that well-managed food plots can produce tremendous amounts of nutritious forage for deer and many other wildlife species.”

Edge planting can be done several ways. The use of farming equipment – tractors, discs and planters or seeders – is feasible in many cases. For small areas, a person walking can scatter seed by hand fairly effectively. An all-terrain vehicle can be an asset too.

For more information and suggestions on plantings for deer, the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission offers a book, “Wildlife Management for Arkansas Private Landowners.” It costs $5 at AGFC offices around the state or $7.50 by mail. Order from http://www.agfc.com/data-facts-maps/Product/11.aspx or by writing Publications, Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, 2 Natural Resources Drive, Little Rock, AR 72205.

Photos courtsey Arkansas Game and Fish Commission

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