Aug 10, 2017

Size Does Matter

By: Steve Jordan

Whether you are looking for deer, walleye, turkeys, offensive linemen, sumo wrestlers, caliber of rifle for out west, YES, size does matter.

Let's use this fact on our food plots. You're probably thinking that I am going to try to talk you into a larger food plot. I am not necessarily going to do that, however, I do like to plant more crops than the deer could possibly eat. 

What I am going to make you aware of is a soybean variety (forage beans) that can grow five to six feet tall with huge leaves. This variety has twice the protein of agricultural beans and is fairly frost resistant. I would like to give you some background and information on this plant. 

I have been planting this forage bean plant in various ways for the last six years or so. You can plant it on its own or in a mix. On its own in a strip is great. A whole plot of it is kind of one-dimensional. This plant has a long growing season (over 200 days) to produce pods for winter feeding of deer and turkeys. In the southern states, this works very well to produce pods. In Wisconsin, we have to be creative with our shorter growing season. I like to mix agricultural or crop beans (soybeans) with the forage beans to stretch out the food availability in the plot for a longer period of time. The deer can eat off the high protein greens of the forage beans all summer and switch over to the soybean pods of the agricultural beans in the fall.

Another way I have used the forage bean is to plant it with corn at a 75% corn and 25% forage bean ratio. These beans will match the corn height and sometimes vine around the corn stalk.

I also add 10% of the forage beans to my tall mix. My tall mix usually consists of corn, sedan grass, sunflowers, Egyptian wheat, tall and short sorghum and forage beans. 

If the forage beans are planted in May here in Wisconsin, they can reach heights of 60-70 inches. If planted in July, they can still reach 30-40 inches on average. 

Some places have a very high deer density. The deer in these areas tend to destroy soybeans daily. If you plant the forage bean at a rate of 80-90 pounds per acre, the deer will have a hard time destroying these plants. In lower deer density areas, 50-60 pounds per acre is adequate. Remember, this variety is huge. Size does matter; not only is the plant bigger than agricultural or crop soybeans, but the root system is much larger. Why does this matter? First of all, a larger and deeper root system is much more drought resistant. Also, a large root system can reach out for nutrients farther and this is especially important when growing on poorer soils.

The leaves on the forage bean plants are 300% larger than crop beans with up to 42% protein compared to 20%-28% on the standard varieties.

Many of you have planted soybeans through the years. As great as they are for attracting and feeding deer, we are all concerned about the first frost, usually toward the end of September in Wisconsin. The day after the first frost our nice tasty green soybean leaves have turned yellow and will fall off in the next 24 hours. Now the deer that we have patterned for bowhunting are going to completely change to a new food source and will change their routes and habits. 

The main reason that the soybeans are so sensitive to frost in the fall is the age of the plant. If you think back to spring, you may have gotten a late frost in May or June. The corn that is two to three inches high gets stunted, turns pale, and some of it even dies. The young soybean plants are usually deep green and unaffected. The spring soybeans are hardy and on a mission to grow up. The fall soybeans are winding down by late September and they are weak and vulnerable to any added stress. 

Now lets go back to the forage bean. This plant, even planted in early spring in Wisconsin, is still on a mission to mature and is very hardy, even in late fall. With a 200+ day maturity, it is only on about 100-120 days or has about ½ of its growing cycle still ahead. This plant will shake off the first few light frosts and you may have it stay green well into October and the first part of November.

A couple of sources I use to purchase the forage beans are CHS Larsen Cooperative in New London, Wisconsin (920-982-1111, ask for Conner) and Eagle Seeds ( 

Just when you thought you knew everything about soybeans, this product comes up. Just remember, size does matter in most things. Some negative things involved with size might be:

  • Weighing over 300 pounds and going ice fishing on thin ice.
  • Getting a new and bigger tractor and now it doesn't fit on your trailer and is too wide for the lane in your woods.
  • A baby wren getting so fat he couldn't fit out of the hole in the wren house.
  • You get all set for turkey hunting. The first gobble is heard so you go to load your gun only to discover you brought the big 10-gauge shells and you're holding onto the 12-gauge (oops).

By the way, the forage beans are “Glyphosate Tolerant.” This means Round-up ready. I have been instructed to not use the term Round-up ready anymore, so glyphosate tolerant it is. 

Have a great summer.