What for alternate year?


Active Member
I've got a nice turnip/radish mix growing well - except for the heavy grazing. It's in just the right spot and I've already got one buck on the ground because of it. I have read that replanting the same spot next year in brassicas won't work because of a (root?) disease. 1. Is that indeed true? 2. If so, what are options for other cold weather greens? Can I replant in chickory?
Tubers (brassica) , any crop in fact, can develop pest and disease related issues when planted back-to-back or for multiple seasons in a row. Simply because the pest or disease needs that particular plant to thrive. So yes - it CAN happen. However - MANY folks plant brassica back-to-back year after year without issue. IF for some reason you see an issue develop - a crop rotation could be in order, but it's not something I would lose sleep over. This tends to be a greater concern to production farmers because they have their livelihood on the line....we are just plotters feeding deer. We don't want issues, but it isn't nearly as catastrophic if we have an issue. As for your second question cereal grains like winter wheat, rye and others will remain green well into the fall as well. In fact many folks plant brassica and then broadcast cereal grains over the top of them later in the year to continue to have green growth for the deer to eat. You can replant chicory.....but chicory is a perennial so if you planted it already and the deer ate it....it should come back in the spring on it's own as long as it was established enough. Sounds like your deer have hit the greens pretty hard. They will potentially dig up and eat the tubes in the ground and if you wish you can broadcast some rye or maybe winter wheat over the plot and it should still have some time to get you some more green forage as well. It may not be much, but it's something.
I don't know what area you're in as far as your hardiness zone, but IMO there's just one cold season food plot planting that's better than brassica at drawing deer and that's Austrian Winter Peas, aka AWP, which would be an excellent rotation crop for brassica. An AWP fall planting is absolute dynamite in drawing in deer, if you have a big enough plot to keep them from wiping them out. I suggest mixing with small grain to help keep your deer from getting ahead of the growth like mine did this year. I'd overseed the brassica this fall, or early spring plant with wheat oats or rye, then drill or disc in the AWP mix around labor day.
As others have mentioned, its not as critical with food plots as it is when it is a cash crop. If you do any spring and summer plots, that is the rotation that you would possibly need to hopefully break up the pest and disease. It works even better if you plant multiple species together as they feed off each others nutrients and help combat disease problems. I continually watch videos on cover crops(we call them food plots) and depending on the farmer that is planting them, some will leave a certain species in the field and plant their cash crop into it. Studies over a 3-5 year period show that the cash crop benefits from the cover crop left in the field. For instance, corn planted into clover, the clover provides nitrogen for the corn and lessens the amount the farmer has to side dress or spread over the top. The cover crops really help with corn on corn on corn to help keep the soil tilth, fighting disease and from losing valuable nutrients to leaching or run off. I guess what I am saying is, do as the others mentioned and keep planting brassicas.
I have observed two consistent challenges with planting a straight brassica mix: My deer never let it grow enough to mature and you need a good amount of nitrogen for best results. To put it another way: Never plant just one plant, or type of plant. Always plant in mixes that include cereal grains, legumes, brassicas and "others", like buckwheat and chicory (no "k"). Some mixes work better than others in the deep south; some work better Up North. In any region, mixes, or small plots with various things planted and rotated, work better than homogeneous plantings like we see from farmers. Mixes keep something growing year 'round, which means they are feeding deer during their stress periods.

Most of the folks who get excited about a single plant in their food plots do so because they feel it has helped them harvest a deer. While I am not opposed to harvesting deer, I can honestly say I have moved past that as the primary objective. When I see twin fawns and they are HUGE...that's when I know the habitat work I'm doing is on track. The deer I shoot are of secondary importance, really. YMMV
Is the plot big enough to divide into two different plots? You alternate one half as a cool season brassica type plot. The other half can be anything else, soil building, grains, legumes, RR, what ever. This gives you your plot rotation, along with herbicide rotation options to control weeds in at least half the plot each year. Plus, you would always have something growing in at least half.