Sooner or later weeds are gonna get ya... In being a good steward of the land as much as I am a food plot planter growing the most deer food that I can on every acre, I try to limit using herbicides for food plots as much as I possibly can. Sometimes that pesky grass and weeds becomes too much and it's time to break out the food plot atv sprayer or 3pt mounted tractor sprayer and take care of business. A few weeds here and there are ok and nothing to worry about because believe it or not, many weeds are high in protein and highly attractive to browsers such as deer. While scouting food plots, pay attention as you're walking through the plot and take note of which weeds are being browsed upon by the deer and which ones aren't. Grass in food plots on the other hand is a royal pain and provides no benefits to you or your deer other than severally choking out what forages you specificaly planted in your food plot and robbing you blind by sucking up all that expensive food plot fertilizer that you spread.
The food plot herbicide cheat sheet is a list of herbicides and rates that I have used over the years on some of my food plot plantings consisting of just about every popular food plot forage from clover to corn and everything inbetween. As herbicide patents expire through the years, other companies jump in with their generic version of the same herbicide product for alot of times a fraction of the price. For instance when the popular roundup herbicide first was invented, it was very high priced and now that patents have expired, generic roundup herbicide made by other companies can be purchased very cheaply. The herbicide brands and rates listed in this food plot spraying article are ones that I have used myself and have had good success with on my Nebraska hunting property and the properties that I manage for hunters here in Nebraska. Keep in mind that soil types and herbicide resistant weeds vary greatly across the country as do everyone's measuring technique when tank mixing herbicide. A dash of that and gulp of this or applying 5 times the needed amount of herbicide can cause some very poor kill rates or worse yet, severally damage your soil. It's extremely important to read the herbicide label and follow the application rates as close as possible. Some herbicides such as glyphosate which is the active ingredient in roundup herbicide call for 1-2quarts per acre of product while others such as Raptor herbicide is applied at a rate of only 4-6 ounces per acre.
Roundup herbicide also known as Glyphosate is without a doubt one of the most commonly used food plot herbicides used for grass and weed control prior to seeding and during the growing stages of your food plot. The term burndown herbicide application is a common one among food plotters and the term burndown means to kill everything off by applying roundup spray to an area that ones intends to turn into a new food plot. An overgrown field or pasture that hasn't seen a plow or disc in 20 years is a good culprit for a burndown herbicide application. Typically the field is mowed with a bush hog or shredder mower and then followed up a few days later with a herbicide burndown application that will kill every living plant that was growing in the field. This is a common practice for no-till planters such as myself that like to plant seeds into a heavy ground thatch for extra moisture savings and improved weed control. Glyphosate herbicide is very affordable to buy, does not require a license as it's not a resticted use herbicide RUP and normally comes in 2.5 gallon jugs. Roundup herbicide can be purchased at just about any farm supply store or ag chemical dealer.
Clethodim herbicide is another popular food plot herbicide that a person can use in their arsenal for controlling that invasive grass such as that growing in our perennial clover food plots. Clethodim is the active ingredient that is found in most popular grass control herbicides for food plots such as Arrow 2EC, Select, Clethodim 2E, Dakota, and many others. A quick check of the herbicide label should reveal a 26.4% active ingredient of Clethodim then you know you have the correct stuff. Application rates for Clethodim will range in the 8-12 ounces per acre and don't forget to add 1 quart of crop oil to the mix to ensure a good kill. Clethodim based herbicides are a much slower killing herbicide and noticeable results may take up to a couple of weeks.
The following herbicide recommendations and rates below are ones that I've personally used with good success for most common food plot forages.
-Broadleaf Weed Control in Perennial Clover Plots and Alfalfa Plantings
1-2 quarts per acre of Butyrac 200 commonly called 24DB if weeds are small. Apply 2-3 quarts of 24DB if weeds are 2-4" tall. Do not confuse Butyrac 200 (24DB) with it's close relative 24D which is another broadleaf herbicide that is not to be used on clover plots. 24DB will kill chicory so if you have a clover/chicory blend do not spray with Butyrac 200.
-Grass Control in Straight Clover Plots or Clover/Chicory Food Plots and Alfalfa.
Clethodim based grass specific herbicide such as Arrow2 EC, Select, Agristar, Dakota, and Clethodim 2E will do a good job of cleaning up grasses in those perennial food plots. Use at a rate of 8-12 ounces per acre with 1qt of crop oil per acre to the mix. The added crop oil will make the Clethodim herbicide adhere much better to the leaves of the grass for better control. If grasses are 6-12" tall use a full rate of Clethodim herbicide which is 12 ounces per acre.
-One Pass Grass and Broadleaf Weed Control in Clover and Alfalfa Food Plots
All in one grass and weed control in pure stands of clover, clover/chicory stands, and alfalfa food plots can be accomplished with Raptor herbicide. Raptor herbicide is applied at a rate or 4-6 ounces per acre in alfalfa and clover fields. For best results, a non-ionic surfactant must be added into the tank mix along with nitrogen fertilizer. To save confusion and time, companies now have made a product called (Nitro-Surf) which includes both surfactant and nitrogen fertilizer all in one 2.5 gal mix for added convenience at a reasonable cost of around $35.00. Raptor herbicide does have some residual properties which means that some of the chemical will stay in the soil for a duration of time and help prevent other weed seeds and grasses from germinating in your clover/alfalfa food plots. At just shy of $600 per gallon, Raptor is an expensive herbicide however up to 16 acres of fields can be sprayed with just 1 gallon. Clearcast aquatic herbicide is an alternative to using the expensive Raptor herbicide and shares the same exact active ingredient as Raptor but at almost half the price.
-Herbicides For Use In Brassica Plantings
In most cases, weed and grass control in your late summer brassica food plot planting should not be needed. However, I've heard of a few cases here in Nebraska of cheat grass overtaking fields of brassica. Cheat grass is a cool season grass that comes alive early in the spring and again in early fall and can cause some problems in fall planted food plots if left uncheck. Regardless of what grass type that you might have in your brassica food plot planting, an application of a Clethodim based herbicide at 8-12 ounces per acre with 1quart of crop oil added to the tank will clean the brassica plot up nicely. Broadleaf weed control in brassica food plot plantings shouldn't ever be much of an issue to deal with since plantings occur in late summer and most weed growth occurs in early spring. As far as I am aware, there still hasn't been a herbicide developed that is safe for controlling broadleaf weeds in brassica food plots. Typically if a few weeds or grasses are present, my normal procedure of applying a burn down glyphosate application the day of or day before I seed my brassica food plot has worked very well in having a brassica field that is very clean.
-Cereal Grain Weed Control
Common cereal grain plantings for whitetail deer usualy include winter rye, oats, and winter wheat. These 3 are the most common planted cereal grains and make up the bulk of most fall food plot plantings every year. Other than a pre- plant burn down herbicide application of roundup up similiar to what I do prior to seeding my brassica food plots in early August, there really shouldn't be much of a need to worry about weed or grass control in cereal grain food plots. Since winter rye, oats, and winter wheat are all planted in the fall, weed pressure will be minimal to nonexistent.
-Weed Control in Sunflower Plantings
Sunflowers are a hot item in food plot plantings for both deer and dove hunters. Planting sunflower food plots specifically for dove hunting requires clean fields and a good herbicide program to follow. If you're going to a sunflower field for either deer or for dove hunting over, I highly recommend that you purchase only Clearfield Sunflower Seed for your plantings. The clearfield herbicide trait allows you to spray Beyond herbicide post emergence over your sunflower plants. The term "Clearfield" refers to a plant that has been selected and bred for tolerance to the imadazoline family of herbicides that includes Beyond, Raptor, and Pursuit. Here's the herbicide program that we've found successful for growing clean fields of sunflowers. After planting but right before sunflower emergence, an application of Cinch herbicide is applied. When the sunflowers get 12-16" tall or when weed are 3-4" tall the second herbicide application is made with Beyond herbicide that will control most grasses and weeds in your sunflower field. Once sunflower fields begin to canopy, their vigorous growth makes them very competitive with any weeds that might germinate later on. This 2 pass herbicide system as worked well for us in growing clean fields of sunflowers for doves and deer.