Hairy vetch is a widely adapted, winter hardy cool-season annual legume that supplies an abundant amount of palatable forage for deer and turkeys and other wildlife in late spring into early summer. It also produces an excellent seed crop that attracts quail and turkey. As a legume, it fixes 75 lbs. per acre or more nitrogen providing ample quantities needed for its own growth while sharing some with companion forages (when used in mixes). Because of its sprawling, viney growth habit, hairy vetch can suppress late winter/early spring annual weeds. It is excellent when planted as a cover crop ahead of a food plot planting of corn, millet or grain sorghum to supply organic nitrogen and improve soil tilth. It is best used in mixtures with cool season annual grasses and clovers.
TYPE: Cool season reseeding annual legume
USES: To provide nutrition for deer, turkey and other wildlife in late spring into early summer. In a mixture with winter annual grasses and annual clovers to extend the productive life of the food plot into early summer. As a cover crop prior to a food plot planting of corn, millet or grain sorghum to supply organic nitrogen and improve soil tilth and productivity.
Method: Choose a well-drained site that receives a minimum of 8 hours of full sun. Prepare a clean, smooth and firm seedbed by plowing and dragging the soil. Fertilizer and lime can be applied during this step to incorporate it into the soil. Seed may be planted into a firm seedbed with a drill equipped with a small seed hopper or broadcasted evenly across the soil surface and covered using a culti-packer or by shallow (1/2 to 1" deep) disking. If seed are disked in, the use of a culti-packer or roller after seeding ensures good seed/soil contact and improves stand emergence.
Seeding Date: South - Sept. 15 thru Nov. 1; Upper South - Sept. 1 thru Oct. 15; North - Aug. 15 thru Oct. 1. (Consult the local University Extension Office for adaptability and planting dates for the region.)
Seeding Rate: 30 lbs. per acre (11 oz. per 1000 sq. ft.) planted alone or 15 lbs. per acre (5 oz. per 1000 sq. ft.) when planted in mixtures.
Seeding Depth: 1/4" - 1/2" inch (stand failures will result from seed planted too shallow or too deep).
Fertilizer: Soil testing is highly recommended. Liming to a pH of 6.0 - 6.5 and providing adequate soil levels of potassium and phosphorus are necessary to ensure a productive food plot. See your local county extension office for soil sampling assistance. As a legume, hairy vetch requires no commercial nitrogen fertilizer. In the absence of a soil test, apply 300 lbs. /acre 0-20-20 (7 lbs. /1000 sq. ft.) or an equivalent fertilizer and 1 ton/acre ag lime (50 lbs. /1000 sq. ft.) for pure hairy vetch stands. If planted in a mixture with small grains, apply 400 lbs. /acre 10-10-10 (10 lbs. /1000 sq. ft.) or an equivalent fertilizer and 1 ton/acre ag lime (50 lbs. /1000 sq. ft.). Apply fertilizer just prior to seeding. If practical, apply lime a minimum of 3 months before planting.
Inoculant: Unless pre-inoculated, hairy vetch seed must be inoculated with selected Rhizobia strains (strain C) of bacteria just prior to planting for optimal root nodulation and nitrogen fixation.
Fertilizer: If hairy vetch is planted in a mixture with small grains, apply a second application of 400 lbs. per acre 10-10-10 fertilizer (10 lbs. /1000 sq. ft.) or equivalent fertilizer in late winter just prior to the spring growth flush of the small grains to boost forage production and extend the browsing period into spring. Or, if a soil test from the plot area indicates soil potassium and phosphorus levels are adequate, a sidedress application of 34-0-0 at 125 lbs. /acre (3 lbs. /1000 sq. ft.) or an equivalent nitrogen fertilizer product is sufficient.
Tips for Successful Food Plots:
1. Every successful food plot begins with a soil test. Most woodland soils have low pH and low fertility. A soil test will tell you how much fertilizer and lime is needed. Information on taking a soil test can be obtained from your local county extension office.
2. Spend the extra time necessary to properly prepare the soil by plowing, smoothing and firming the ground. Planting on a weed free, smooth and firm seedbed that allows good seed-soil contact is essential for a thick, productive forage stand.
3. Plant seed at the proper seeding depth. Planting too shallow or too deep can result in stand failure. Seed mixes containing small seeded legumes and forbs should not be seeded deeper than 1/4 inch. Use a cultipacker, log or a light drag to firm the soil after planting.
4. When selecting a wildlife food plot site, choose an area that is long and narrow with curves or bends in it. This provides a sense of comfort and safety for wildlife. When developing food plots, a good rule of thumb is to plant 2.5 to 7 acres of food plots for every 100 acres of habitat.
5. Avoid droughty sites such as eroded hillsides or shallow, rocky soils. Southwest facing slopes are hotter in the summer and tend to dry out faster than bottom land.
6. A minimum of 50% full sunshine is essential for a healthy and productive food plot. Morning sun is better than afternoon sun for summer game food plots. The reverse is generally true in the winter.