Planting your food plots with indigenous forage species benefits both your land and the wildlife that use it.
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The wildlife food plots that we so carefully plant and tend have undoubtedly grown bigger bucks and built healthier deer herds. But it’s also possible that we are literally sowing the seeds of an ecological problem that could grow well beyond our own properties.
Many food-plot seed blends contain non-native plants, some of which are classified as invasive. To clarify, “non-native” and “invasive” have come to mean the same thing to many shade-tree ecologists. In reality, non-natives and invasive plants are different.
“There is no inherent harm in planting non-native plants,” says Dr. Chris Moorman, coordinator of the Fisheries, Wildlife, and Conservation Biology Program at North Carolina State University. “Many of our agricultural food crops are non-native and many non-native ornamentals are known to be benign,” meaning they don’t spread.
What worries Moorman is that “quick-fix” attitudes will replace the need to be long-term stewards of our hunting lands.
Moorman suggests land managers become familiar with all of the seeds in any given blend and avoid introducing exotic plants that aren’t classified as invasive, but that “have characteristics common to known invasive plants.” Those include prolific seed production, rapid vegetative reproduction (think kudzu), and adaptations for seed dispersal, like fruits eaten by birds.
Even better, hunters should consider planting a variety of natives that are appealing to deer and other wildlife, and are beneficial to the wider landscape.
Here are six great options.