By Gerry Lavigne
The Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine (SAM) and Central Maine Power (CMP) are collaborating to establish wildlife-friendly seed mixtures along a portion of CMP 300+ mile electrical transmission line right-of-ways in southern and central parts of the state. That project is in full swing, as CMP’s contractors will be using SAM’s Wildlife mix to re-establish vegetation along several experimental plots.
We would also like to offer this new mix to anyone interested in testing it and reporting their results back to SAM. This experiment would be great for contractors and loggers who need to re-establish herbaceous vegetation on disturbed sites like log landings, along logging roads, or on any site where ground cover is needed to prevent erosion. Hunters and wildlife enthusiasts may be interested in using SAM’s Wildlife mix to establish long-term (five to seven years) fall and spring food plots for deer, turkeys, bear, and other wildlife.
White-tailed deer are attracted to sites which offer nutritious grasses and clovers in fields and along openings during late fall, when woods forage is beginning to wane. These foods are important for deer as they lay up fat prior to winter. In early spring, these same grasses and clovers are among the first to green up, and they attract deer in large numbers wherever available. Early green vegetation of this kind allows winter-weakened deer to begin weight recovery just when bucks begin antler growth, and when pregnant does need extra nutrition to produce healthy fawns.
The type of grasses and clovers that attract deer at these critical times of the year are called cool season perennials. This class of plant typically puts on lush leafy nutritious growth in the cooler months of spring. As the heat of summer comes on, they form their seed heads, and become less nutritious for deer. However, the onset of cool autumn days sparks a resurgence of leafy growth, as these plants prepare for winter dormancy. Many of these varieties remain nutritious and green right into late fall. Some remain available under a blanket of early snow.
Here in the Northeast, cool-season herbaceous grasses and clovers form the bulk of the hay and pasture plants grown for cattle, horses and sheep. For our wildlife seed mix, we selected varieties that tend to make good pasture growth, are winter-hardy for Maine, and as a group, are adaptable to a wide variety of site conditions and fertility. In doing so, SAM consulted with agronomists from two seed companies, as well as veteran seed distributors right here in Maine.
All of the varieties we selected are perennials. There are no annual grasses or clovers. Nor are there any of the brassicas, peas, oats or other short-lived plants commonly used in temporary food plots. Once established, SAM’s Wildlife Mix should persist for several years with little maintenance.
There are a lot of Conservation Mixes on the market that are used by contractors, loggers and others who need to quickly establish vegetative cover. Many of these contain annuals, and all contain too little clover (typically 3%) to be optimal for wildlife. In addition, the grasses may not have been selected for their palatability.
SAM’s Wildlife Mix is comprised of 85 percent grasses, including Kentaur Perennial Ryegrass (27 percent of seed content), Laura Meadow Fescue (16 percent), Persius Festuolium (16 percent), Niva Orchardgrass (15 percent), and Balin Kentucky Bluegrass (11 percent). The remaining seed content is Clyclone II Red Clover (10 percent), and Regal Graze Ladino (white) clover (5 percent). Both clovers are inoculated to improve nitrogen fixation. Though more expensive to formulate, the higher clover content of our mix will improve grass growth, and wildlife nutrition.
Because SAM’s Wildlife Mix contains similar-sized , generally small seed, a little seed goes a long way. Hence, recommended seeding rates are lower than for mixes with seeds ranging from peas to brassicas. The agronomists recommend broadcast seeding this mix anytime from spring to early September at a rate of 40 pounds per acre. Hence, a 50-pound bag should cover 1.2 acres. A 10-pound bag should seed 1/5 acre or about 8,000 sq.ft. Seeding rates are a bit less, if seed is drilled instead of broadcast. Germination will be better if a loose, fine seedbed is established, and if the seed is covered lightly or pressed into the soil. SAM’s Wildlife Mix can also be frost seeded at slightly higher rates.
We are offering SAM’s Wildlife Mix at prices which are considerably less than those for typical food plot blends. In addition, contractors will find that our mix is comparable in price to standard Conservation Mixes due to lower application rates.
SAM has purchased a substantial quantity of this proprietary seed mix from Kings Agriseed Inc., located in Pennsylvania. It is for sale at our cost for $120/ 50 lb. bag. We can also accommodate smaller orders at $25/ 10 pounds. We cannot ship these orders. All orders must be picked up at SAM Headquarters in Augusta. To order, contact Office Manager Becky Morrell at (207) 622-5503 during regular business hours, or online at www.sportsmansallianceofmaine.org.
Gerry Lavigne serves on SAM’s Board of Directorsand leads SAM’s Deer Management Network initiative.