The new found interest in planting flood plots for attracting and holding wildlife has developed a whole new science of plant production. Early on deer hunters planted corn and soybeans to attract deer to isolated hunting areas. Later foreign species of grasses and vegetable species began to enter the picture.
Soft mast trees add significantly in attracting deer and other wildlife. A conversation at the ODMA National Convention drilled that home. The discussion involved several landowners and nursery growers. Due to the nature of the conference the focus was on what soft mast (fruit trees) can do to enhance flood plots.
Coming away from this informal session instilled some ideas as to the planting of fruit trees in the more moderate temperature habitats such as the southern Midwest. Most of the trees under discussion were apple and pear varieties but peaches also fall into this class.
When thinking of food plots most of us deer hunters think of the broad leaf vegetables such as turnips and some native grasses. A number of commercial offerings on the market contain nutrient rich plants from other countries approved for planting in this country.
Pears are the easiest fruit trees to grow according to nurserymen. Crabapples are the most productive of fruit. The group consensus was that some of the apple subspecies are bred to be virus free and highly resistant to other problems. They named a number of unfamiliar species. Perhaps local nursery operators can aid in finding them for planting.
With a little maintenance during the first few years, planted fruit trees should begin producing fruit in about 2 to 3 years. By way of contrast, oak plantings take 5 to 8 year.
The suggestions from the pros are that one learns what will produce in your area. Nursery employees are a good source of information. Be sure to purchase healthy stock and not just the least expensive plants. It is advisable to plant different varieties of the peaches, pears and apples to make sure pollination occurs. Do not plant just one variety.
If possible choose fruit that will fall at different times to insure a longer production season. It keeps the wildlife in the area.
In recent years wildlife habitat has declined. Food plots are a good way to bring it back. But, do not forget soft mast species. With some light maintenance in the first couple of years trees help to beautify the surroundings and improve the productivity of the land.