How To Get More Out Of Your Crops
Whether you are in the Mallard Release Program or just looking to draw in migratory birds, one factor remains constant: wintering waterfowl need a solid diet to offset the energy expenditure of migration and to provide energy to survive the cold winter months. Ducks on the wintering grounds also need quality food resources during the wintering period to ensure the ducks are in prime condition for courtship, pair bonding, spring migration and the spring breeding season. The fact is, the condition of habitats during the winter does have an effect on breeding success in the spring.
Look in any biological publication, and most of the ducks we see around here share a similar diet, protein rich invertebrates during the summer, grains, pondweeds, and sedges during the winter. Find out just how healthy your food plot is from the list below, composed of a few commonly planted crops in this area.
Chufa- aka Tiger nut, rush nut, yellow nutgrass
A crop that’s worth the price. Once an important food crop in ancient Egypt, it is today cultivated in West Africa, Spain, and China. A fast growing perennial sedge that does well in warm climates, moist or wet soil. The small round tubers along the root are 12% protein, high in carbohydrates, and rich in oleic acid. Can be planted up until Aug. 1 in coastal areas.
Rice- Oryza sativa
Grains are highly nutritious, with a protein content approaching 14% (13.8%), similar to that of wheat (14.8%). Also has a higher content of amino acids (lysine and methionine), along with essential fatty acids (linolenic and linoleic) than most cereals. Good source of Vitamin B. Drawbacks include difficulty to grow efficiently, as well as in areas where blackbirds are a problem. Valued also for cover and as a substrate and for food for invertebrates which waterfowl also feed on. Seeds mature in 90-100 days.
Japanese Millet- echinochloa crusgalli var. frumentecea
An excellent crop to drill in or plant where equipment access is limited. May be broadcasted onto exposed mud flats. Millet contains 8.3% protein, along with 25.8% crude fiber. An annual reseeding grass of Asiatic origin that produces heavy seed yields. A tiny seed, approximately 145,000 per pound, are relished by gadwall, mallard, wood duck, and teal. Seeds mature in about 90 days.
Sorghum- sorghum spp.
An annual small grain crop that is closely related to corn. 9% crude protein, with 2.2% crude fiber. Known for being drought tolerant, with a planting range from April 15 to July 15, or when the soil temperature reaches 65 degrees F.
As with any food plot, perform a soil test from several different areas to be planted to determine fertilization requirements. Weigh your options and use this guide to determine the choice crop for your area, and hopefully they will put more ducks in your area for years to come.