Habitat Corner: High-Yielding Annuals

3a550699-077d-47d2-a4a7-5f0c9f83ab1a By Aaron K. Kuehl, Quail Forever Director of Seed Operations

Repeat after me….

“I am a recovering weed hater. I will no longer view all weeds as bad. I will embrace weeds for the quail habitat they provide. I will not engage in recreational mowing. I will value my quail more than a manicured farm. I will remember that hay fever equals more quail food. I love my weeds!”

 The above “Quail Managers Creed” was coined by private land conservationists for the Missouri Department of Conservation but applies across the entire quail range. Weeds may be defined as out-of-place plants (not growing where they are wanted) not intentionally sown. Quail managers should consider replacing the word “weeds” in their vocabulary with high-yielding-annuals (HYAs).

High-yielding annuals share the same early successional characteristics as quail. HYA benefits to quail include 1) a typical growth form which provides aerial cover above and unrestricted movement below, 2) lots of seeds for food and 3) attracts a wide variety of individually packaged protein (aka bugs) critical for developing chicks.

Our own Senior Wildlife Biologist (emeritus), Jim Wooley, penned an article about one of these high-yielding annuals last fall. “Ragweed: The Irritating Miracle Plant” is a must-read for quail managers and available at www.quailforever.org – just type ragweed in the search box and hit enter.

Once you’re able to get past the paradigm that weeds are bad (some like the ragweed mentioned above, especially so to allergy sufferers) and adopt the wisdom of the quail manager's creed, managing for high-yielding annuals isn’t difficult.

High-yielding annuals thrive on disturbed soils. By design, annuals produce A LOT of seed. That seed is distributed by wildlife, where it lies in the soil waiting for disturbance to start the cycle again. Disking, heavy grazing, prescribed burning and chemicals all can provide the necessary disturbance to activate high-yielding annuals. Even seeding a new native CRP project often stimulates a flush of high-yielding annuals, so as long as they aren’t so thick to prohibit your native seedlings, instead of mowing these weeds at first sight, consider them a high-yielding annual food plot in year one.

If you’re looking to develop high-yielding annuals for quail and wait-and-see isn’t your style, our wildlife biologists have developed “Quail Quisine,” a proprietary blend of common ragweed, sorghum, millets, sunflower and partridge pea that provides excellent two-year food and cover plot for quail and other wildlife. Quail Quisine, as well as our other food plot and conservation mixes, are available on our habitat store at pfhabitatstore.com

Remember: Make every acre count and Think Habitat!