Wheat is a cool-season cereal grain that is preferred by deer and ideal for planting in mixtures with other forages. During its first months of growth, wheat is high in protein (14-20% protein) and highly palatable to deer. As a result, it is an excellent forage for fall-planted hunting plots and as an early-spring food source.
Site requirements of wheat
Of the cereal grains, wheat is the most tolerant of heavy wet soils. It is more cold tolerant than oats, but less tolerant of cold and acidic soils than rye. It grows best on well drained or moist soils with pH between 6.0 and 7.0. Unlike oats, it can be planted successfully without tilling the soil.
Winter wheat vs. spring wheat
Wheat is available in “winter wheat” and “spring wheat” varieties. Winter wheat does best when planted in the fall, and spring wheat is planted in early spring. Choose winter wheat in regions where wheat will over-winter. Because winter wheat establishes in the fall and begins growing early in the spring, it is available to deer for a longer period, and it has greater production than spring wheat. If planting spring wheat, plant as early as possible to maximize the amount of forage produced.
Varieties of wheat
There are many varieties of wheat to choose from but you should always select “forage” varieties for deer food plots. Also, select varieties that are resistant to diseases such as root rot, mildew fungus and rust. Ask your local Cooperative Extension agent which diseases are a problem in your area. Winter hardy varieties of winter wheat include: Caledonia, Harus, Mendon, and Genesis 9953. Other varieties used in deer food plots include: Pioneer 2551, Pioneer 2548, Fuller Florida 302
Suggested forage mixtures with wheat
Wheat is most beneficial to deer if it is planted in a mixture with cool-season legumes. The following are some examples of suitable forage mixtures that include wheat:
wheat and crimson clover or arrowleaf clover
wheat, red clover and ladino clover
wheat, red clover, ladino clover and birdsfoot trefoil
wheat, rye and Austrian winter peas