The Ultimate Food Plot Plant for the South
In most cases as hunting season fades away, so does the available forage in our food plots. The bad thing about this is that spring and summer are when deer utilize large amounts of protein for does to produce milk, fawns and yearlings to grow frame and bucks to grow antlers. Additionally, when there is no food, deer stop using the plots. This hinders the effectiveness of our plots from a hunting standpoint. “Sweet Tea” routinely tests in the mid to high thirties in crude protein; higher than iron clay peas, clover, alfalfa and soybeans. Sweet Tea is also much higher in calcium and phosphorous content. These levels are very important for growing antlers and bone.
FAQ’s about Sweet Tea
What exactly is Sweet Tea?
Sweet Tea is a special selection of a perennial plant in the Mallow family named Sida that is highly attractive to deer. There are about a dozen species of Sida that occur in the Southeastern United States, some native and some non-native. There are numerous common names for different Sida species and many times the same common name is used for different ones, which leads to confusion. This is probably because there are several that look a lot alike. Sweet tea has been identified as Sida acuta, which is a native plant of the Southeastern United States. Some of the common names used for this plant include Ironweed, Teaweed, Broomweed, Fanpetals and Wireweed. Teaweed is also used as a common name for Sida spinosa, which is an invasive plant in agriculture. Since it is native, Sida acuta could never be considered an invasive plant. If it were going to become a problem plant, this would have happened many eons ago! This said the seed is easily transported by tires, which is why Sida is commonly found along roadsides and disturbed areas. Of all the Sida acuta and other Sidas we studied, one stood out from all the others and seemed to be irresistible to deer.
How did the Sweet Tea selection come about?
We are in the native seed and plant business and are always on the lookout for natives that are preferred by game species. An article was published by the University of Florida about Sida acuta and its benefits for wildlife which was complete with forage analyses and other useful information. As we researched further we concluded that some stands of Sida acuta were browsed by deer while others were not; even in the same areas. Sweet Tea was initially selected from wild stands that were being very heavily browsed. We began making collections and growing plants for observation, research and testing and eventually were left with one that was superior to all others. Because of how much the deer liked to browse it we decided to name it Sweet Tea.
What is different about Sweet Tea compared to regular commercial forages?
Sweet Tea is a native or wild plant and has not been through all the breeding processes that commercial forage and other traditional field crops have. There is a huge amount of variability in wild plants from varying germination times (seed dormancy) to varying growth rates when subjected to different soils, temperatures, day lengths, etc. Virtually all of the variability has been bred out of commercial cultivars. This was done in order for the crop to be uniform for a more efficient harvest. The good thing about variability is that there is protection built into wild plants against untimely extreme weather events such as floods, droughts or freezes. Since there are always plants at all growth stages within the stand, including seeds in the soil beneath, the stand has a much better chance of persisting over the long term. Keep this in mind when you are getting your stand of Sweet Tea started and don’t compare it to planting something like peas or oats. You are establishing a stand not a crop. Once your stand is established in a good area it will be there every year. Then no matter if you have had time or the right weather to plant any other summer forage, Sweet Tea will be providing your deer with high protein browse all summer long. This will enhance the productivity of your deer hunt in two ways: The first is by providing a consistent nutrient source that will help does make milk and bucks grow antlers and frame. Secondly, when deer are accustomed to the plot being a reliable source of food they will be more likely to use the plots in hunting season. Be sure to inquire about our bare root switchgrass to create channeling and perimeter screens which has proven to be very effective in getting mature bucks out into the plot during daylight hours.