October 18, 2022
By NAW Staff
Every whitetail hunter understands the power of attraction a luscious green soybean field has over whitetails during the summer’s warm growing season, as well as the magnetic pull of a standing bean field throughout fall and during a cold winter. Simply put, there are few if any plants that possess the same level of year-round deer-drawing ability as soybeans.
How to Plant Soybeans for Deer
For this reason, soybeans are one of the most popular food plot plants in existence. But there are hundreds of varieties of soybeans, and not all are created equal. Whitetail land managers can divide soybeans into two main classes for identification proposes: agricultural and forage varieties. Both are different in their growth habits, browse tolerance and bean production, primarily. Below we discuss each in more detail.
Agricultural soybeans are what you see in most expansive row-crop bean fields planted across North America. Ag variety soybeans are primarily used in farming practices because they produce high yields of grain (bean-filled pods). During their initial growth phase, ag soybean plants are highly attractive to whitetails because they produce protein-packed, highly digestible and palatable green leaves that are adored by whitetails.
Later in the year, the carbohydrate-rich grain becomes a major draw to whitetails seeking nourishment in the form of digestible energy. There is perhaps no single greater winter food source for whitetails than a standing soybean field full of grain.
There are two major drawbacks to agricultural variety soybeans as compared to forage variety soybeans. No. 1 is that ag soybeans produce less green vegetative forage. This is because they’re genetically bred for their bean pod production, not their leaves. Drawback No. 2 is that many varieties of agricultural soybeans are likely to experience pod-shattering during extreme cold weather. When pods shatter, the beans fall to the ground and are much more difficult for whitetails to consume.
Unlike agriculture soybeans, forage soybeans are genetically selected for their green leafy forage, as opposed to their bean pod production. It’s important to note that green browse of forage soybeans is not inherently more nutritious than agriculture soybeans — it simply grows more prolifically.
For this reason, forage soybeans have become highly popular among whitetail land managers and food plotters who seek to maximize the digestible tonnage and protein-packed (up to 35-percent) browse available to their deer herd. Forage soybeans are much more browse-tolerant in deer plots than agriculture soybeans. This allows deer managers to do two things, essentially: either provide greater browse tonnage per acre; or, successfully plant soybeans in smaller plots.
A disadvantage of forage soybeans is that many varieties produce lower yields of grain (less bean-filled pods) per plant. Additionally, forage soybeans commonly have a longer growth season than agriculture beans. In some northern climates, forage soybeans might not reach maturity prior to killing frost dates.
Strategies and Tips for Protecting Your Food Plots
Before You Plant
Soybeans are a warm season annual crop that should be planted in spring or summer, based on your geographic location and hardiness zone. Deer land managers considering planting either agricultural or forage variety soybeans should conduct a soil test prior to planting and adhere to any soil amendments recommended. A soil pH level of at least 6.0 is recommended, and 7.0 (neutral) is ideal. Soybeans typically don’t require the amount of fertilizer corn or other row-crops do. However, it is common for soil tests to call for the addition of phosphorous or potassium. Remember though, soybeans are legumes — meaning they produce their own nitrogen. Their nitrogen-fixing ability has earned them a reputation of being soil-improvers in food plots.
Soybeans can be planted with a no-till drill, soybean planter, or by broadcasting onto a well-prepared seed bed. If broadcasted, soybeans should be covered with a drag and cultipacker to 1-1.5 inches in depth. It is recommended to follow to the seeding rate on the bag of whatever variety soybean you’ve selected, though this isn’t as critical as it is with other row-crops. Soybeans can adjust their growth habits based on seed spacing (close-spaced plants producing a “pole” shaped plant; further spaces plants producing a “bush” shape).
Many food plotters recommend planting a soybean variety that’s “Roundup Ready” or glyphosate tolerant. This allows the plot to be treated with glyphosate herbicide to eliminate weed growth and maximize soybean plant production.
Consider This Variety
One soybean food plot variety worth considering is Mossy Oak Biologic’s new Game Changer Forage Soybean. This glyphosate-tolerant soybean produces plants with good height, great weather stress tolerance, and excellent disease resistance.
It produces soybean plants with high protein levels and browse preference, supporting deer nutrition for antler growth, body weight and fawn growth. Game Changer soybeans are suitable for most soil types and is an intermediate growth type plant. Food plotters who’ve planted this variety have reported it easy to maintain, thanks to its glyphosate resistance — making it simple to maintain and eliminate weed competition.
To learn more about Game Changer Soybeans, visit: plantbiologic.com