Late season deer hunting across the midwest focuses on one thing, corn. Because of this many hunter’s plant food plots of corn to be left standing for the late season. But corn is a finicky plant. It can be a great food source to plant for deer, but often times it can be hard to grow because of its dependence on nitrogen. To help you understand a little better how to grow a corn food plot successfully we will talk a little bit about corn and nitrogen.
To produce a stand of corn that is beneficial to the deer on your property, the corn is going to have to be a heavy user of nitrogen. Because of this heavy use of nitrogen and the amount you will need to apply, there may be an added expense when you plant a corn food plot.
How Nitrogen Works
Nitrogen is in natural in the air around the corn plant, but they can’t utilize it for growth and production unless it is fixed by nitrogen fixing bacteria or other plants. This is usually accomplished through legumes and a crop rotation. This is why you see farmers use a rotation of corn and soybeans. This crop rotation can be another option other than adding fertilizer. Clover is another plant other than soybeans that can be used in the rotation, but clover is a perennial and will come up year after year, making it hard to use in a rotation.
How Is Nitrogen Lost
The main way that nitrogen is lost is when soil bacteria uses up nitrogen through denitrification. Which is when bacteria in the soil use oxygen from nitrate in the soil as a way to replace oxygen from the air that they are not getting do to saturated soils. It can also be lost through leaching. Which is when negatively charged ions are not held tightly and are leached away from the roots when it rains. It can also be used up by the plants.
The nitrogen in the soil might change fairly regularly, but a simple soil test can help you determine what management actions to take. Most people will probably apply fertilizer to help with a nitrogen deficiency problem, but be careful not to over apply. Over applying will not help your yields and you can only add up to a certain amount of it before you start wasting the fertilizer. You can also waste fertilizer if you let it sit in the soil. You will need to add the fertilizer when the plants are there to use it and benefit from it. One alternative to adding sometimes expensive fertilizer is to add inorganic fertilizer. It is a simpler and cheaper method other than adding nitrogen fertilizer.
Planting corn is a very common food plot plant, but it can be hard to grow. To get the most out of your corn food plots you need to focus on nitrogen. You can do this by adding fertilizer or through a crop rotation of soybeans or other legumes. Corn may be a difficult plant to grow, but if you do a few simple things it can become a great late season hunting location.