Jarred Brooke, Extension Wildlife Specialist
Moriah Boggess, Purdue Extension Wildlife Intern
Seeding rates for native warm-season grass and forb mixtures (NWSG) have changed drastically over time. In the past, native grasses were planted without forbs at rates exceeding 10 lbs/ac. This may be ideal from a forage production standpoint, but this created dense stands of native grass with little to no forb component and lacked benefits to most wildlife.
Mixtures have shifted from heavy planting rates of tallgrass species with few forbs to reduced rates of mid-stature grasses with an abundance of forbs. Recommended seeding rates of some current mixtures may be lower than what no-till drills are capable of planting. In this case, fillers may be needed to increase the bulk weight of the seed to allow the equipment to plant at the correct rate.
Seed mixtures are also more commonly being established by broadcasting seed during late winter (frost seeding) using cyclone fertilizer spreaders. Broadcasting native warm-season grass and forb seed usually requires the use of a carrier to ensure the mixture flows correctly through the spreader and the seed is distributed evenly across the field.
Using fillers when no-till drilling native warm-season grass and forb mixtures
Planting native grass and forb mixtures with a no-till drill is the most common establishment method for NWSG plantings. It may be difficult to achieve the correct seeding rate with a no-till drill because of the combination of reduced bulk weight of dechaffed seed and reduced seeding rates of common mixtures. Fillers can be used to increase the bulk weight of native grass and forb seed if a drill cannot achieve the recommended seeding rate. Traditionally, native grass and forbs have been planted separately using the grass or fluffy-seed box for the native grass seed and the small-seed box for the forbs. However, if the seed has been cleaned and dechaffed it is common for seed companies to mix the seed and recommend it be planted together using the fluffy or grain box on a no-till drill. Fillers can be used when planting native grasses and forbs separately or when planting native grass and forb mixtures. Refer to the chart below for recommended fillers for the different seed boxes of a no-till drill.
We are planting a 10-acre field to a native warm-season grass and forb mixture using a no-till drill. The recommended seeding rate is 6 lbs/acre. The seed will be planted with the grain box of the drill, but the drill will only plant a minimum of 10 lbs/acre of our seed mixture.
10 acre field * 6 lbs/acre bulk seeding rate = 60 lbs of the seed mixture
Minimum seeding rate for the no-till drill is 10 lbs/acre = 10 lbs/acre * 10 acres = 100 lbs
We need to add a filler to increase the bulk weight of the seed mixture to be able to plant at the correct seeding rate. We added a 1:1 ratio (by weight) of cracked corn to our seed mixture:
60 lbs of seed + 60 lbs of cracked corn = 120 lbs of bulk weight for 10 acres
We now need to adjust our bulk seeding rate to account for the added crack corn.
120 lbs of bulk weight for 10 acres = 12 lbs/acre
We need to calibrate our drill to plant 12 lbs/acre in order to plant 6 lbs/ac of our initial seed mixture.
Generally, you should use a 1:1 ratio (by weight) of filler-to-seed, but in some cases you may need to use a higher ratio (e.g., 2:1, 3:1, or 4:1 filler-to-ratio) to achieve the correct seeding rate.
Using carriers when broadcasting native warm-season grass and forb mixtures
Broadcasting native warm-season grass and forbs mixtures is most commonly accomplished with a cyclone fertilizer spreader. These spreaders may have issues broadcasting the native grass and forb seed. The 2 main issues are: (1) the seed is not heavy enough to flow through the spreader and (2) the seeds of various size will settle and will not be spread evenly across the field. Carriers will add more bulk weight to the native grass seed and will help ensure the seed stays mixed across the field. Common carriers that are used with native grasses are cracked corn, pelletized lime, wheat, or oats. The recommended rates of common carriers are in the table below:
Table adapted from the publication Warm season grass establishment,
Indiana Department of Natural Resources, 2006.
We plan to broadcast a native grass and forb mixture on a 10-acre field. The recommended bulk seeding rate is 6 lbs/acre.
10 acre field * 6 lbs/acre bulk seeding rate = 60 lbs of the seed mixture
We need to add a carrier to the mixture to increase the bulk weight of the seed mixture. We plan to add 200 lbs of pelletized lime per acre:
200 lbs/ac of lime * 10 acres = 2000 lbs of lime
60 lbs of seed + 2000 lbs of pelletized lime = 2060 lbs of bulk weight for 10 acres
We now need to adjust our bulk seeding rate to account for the added pelletized lime.
2060 lbs of bulk weight for 10 acres = 206 lbs/acre
We need to calibrate the spreader to broadcast 206 lbs/acre in order to plant 6 lbs/acre of our seed mixture.
Planting native warm-season grass and forb mixtures at the correct rate is a critical step in ensuring a successful planting. Using fillers and carriers when establishing native warm-season grasses and forbs can help ensure the mixtures are planted at the proper rates, flow correctly through the seeding equipment, and ensure the seed is spread evenly across the field.
Moriah Boggess, Purdue Extension Wildlife Intern
Jarred Brooke, Purdue Extension Wildlife Specialist
Have you heard the old adage “proper planning prevents poor performance?” This adage applies perfectly to establishing food plots for wildlife; you just have to adjust the words, “Proper planting prevents poor food plot performance”.
When we talk about planting we include planting method, timing, depth, and planter calibration (see video), but we also include seeding rate. While there are many steps prior to planting to ensure a successful food plot, including taking a soil test, adjusting the soil fertility, and proper site preparation, determining the proper seeding rate based on pure live seed rather than bulk weight may be one aspect that people skip or ignore.
All agronomic seeds have a recommended seeding rate. This is the rate that maximizes forage or grain production and minimizes seed costs. Planting food plot seed too heavily is often a waste of money, because it increases your seed cost, but does not necessarily increase you forage or grain production. Planting food plots too lightly is an inefficient use of field space, opening areas up for weeds to overtake your planting, and could result in failure because of overbrowsing.
Seeding rate also varies by planting method and it’s important to make sure to follow the recommended seeding rate for the planting method you will be using. This rate is greater when broadcasting rather than when drilling or planting seed (broadcast rate: 75-100 lbs/ac vs. drilling rate: 50 lbs/ac for iron-clay cowpeas).
It is important to recognize the difference in how seed is sold (bulk weight) and how seeding rates are recommended (pure live seed [PLS]). When you buy seed from a supplier you are buying it in the form of bulk weight. Bulk weight is the total weight inside the bag, including the food plot seed, as well as the weight of the seed coating and other material (other crop seed and weed seed).
While seed is sold by bulk weight, seeding recommendations are commonly given as PLS rates. This distinction is important. For example, all the recommendations in A Guide to Wildlife Food Plots and Early Successional Plants by Dr. Craig Harper, University of Tennessee Extension are given in PLS rates. Pure live seed is the living seed of the intended crop that will germinate from a seed bag and accounts for the weight of the bag made up of impurities, weed seed, and other crop seed.
Percent PLS in a seed bag varies, depending on the amount of pure seed in the bag as well as the germination rate of that seed. It is important to know the difference between PLS and bulk weight so that you can calculate the amount of bulk weight you need to achieve the recommended PLS seeding rate.
Keep the distinction between bulk weight and PLS weight in mind when buying seed to ensure you purchase enough seed to cover the entire area of your food plot. In this article we will explain how to calculate PLS based on information given to you when you purchase seed.
Dissecting a seed tag – know what you’re getting before you purchase
Before we get too far into calculating PLS, it is important to understand what information you get when purchasing seed. Regardless of whether you buy a seed mix or a single species from a co-op, feed store, or sporting goods store, all agricultural seed sold in Indiana must come with a label – commonly called a seed tag. By law, that seed tag must contain these 12 items: 1) commonly accepted name (species) and variety, 2) lot number, 3) origin of seed, 4) company who labeled the seed, 5) percentage of pure seed (>5% of weight), 6) percentage of other crop seeds, 7) percentage of inert matter, 8) percentage of weed seed, 9) species and amount of any noxious weeds (if present), 10) germination rate, 11) hard seed, and 12) calendar month and year the bag was tested.
As we can see from this red clover seed tag above, only 65% (32.5 lbs) of the 50 lb bag is actually red clover (Pure Seed). Most of the other weight is the inoculant (Coating Material; 34% or 17 lbs). Of the 32.5 lbs of red clover seed, 80% will germinate after planting (Germination). So, if you planted 15 lbs (bulk weight) from this bag (recommended PLS rate) you would actually be planting 9.75 lbs of pure seed, of which only 7.8 lbs would germinate. Meaning you would be planting a little over half the recommended rate. See why PLS is so important now?
Clover seed: bag half empty or half full?
It may seem odd to buy a 10 lb clover seed bag only to expect 5 lbs to actually grow, but in the case of legumes – like clovers – the 5 lbs in the bag that isn’t seed may actually save you money in the long run. Having as little as 50% PLS in a bag of clover is not uncommon, as much of the weight is made up of the seed coating, which is typically an inoculant. The inoculant on clover, soybeans, alfalfa, or other legumes is living bacteria that help fix nitrogen from the air and make it usable to plants. Planting inoculated seed – whether you inoculate it yourself or purchase pre-inoculated seed – reduces the amount of nitrogen fertilizer needed, ultimately saving you money on fertilizer application. The benefit of buying pre-inoculated seed is that it saves you the hassle of inoculating the seed yourself.
Calculating pure live seed (PLS)
Now that you know the importance of reading the seed tag before purchasing seed, you can now think about calculating PLS. All the information you need is right there on the tag. Using the example seed tag below locate the two items labeled “PURE SEED” and “GERMINATION”.
Our example is 98% pure seed, meaning in a 10 lb bag there are 9.8 pounds of pure iron-clay cowpea seed. The next number we will need is the germination rate; this will also be indicated as a percentage. Our example has an 85% germination rate.
To calculate percent PLS for this seed, multiply pure seed and germination and then multiply by 100 (example below). The result is the percentage of pure live seed for this bag of seed.
98% pure seed
(0.98 x 0.85) x 100 = 83% (Percent PLS)
We now know that 83% of our bag is iron-clay cowpeas capable of germinating. Now that we have the PLS of our seed we can calculate the amount (lbs) of pure live seed in our bag. To do this, multiply the bulk seed weight by the percent PLS.
50 lb bag x 0.83 (Percent PLS) = 42 lbs PLS
For example, a 50 lb bag would equal 42 lbs of iron-clay cowpea seed that will germinate.
Determining bulk seed rate
Using the percent PLS information we can also find the amount of bulk seed necessary to plant at a recommended seeding rate. To do this, take the recommended seeding rate for your planting method and divide it by the percent PLS of the seed you are using (example below). The result is the bulk weight that you will need to plant per acre to achieve the recommended seeding rate.
50 lbs/acre = recommended seeding rate for iron-clay cowpeas when drilling
0.83 = percent PLS of seed being planted (from example above)
50/0.83 = 60 lbs/acre
In order to plant a cowpea food plot at the recommended rate of 50 lbs/acre, we will need to plant 60 lbs/acre from this particular seed bag.
Another benefit of calculating pure live seed? Comparing seed prices
Not all seeds are of the same quality. Some have lower pure seed and germination rates than others. For this reason, it is not always most cost effective to buy the cheapest bag of seed on the shelf. If you wish to compare pure live seed prices between seed bags, first divide the price of the bag by the weight of the bag. This will give you the price per pound of bulk seed (example below). Now divide this price per pound by the percent PLS of the seed. The result is the price per pound of PLS.
Seed Manufacturer X 10lbs
Pure seed 97%
PLS (0.97 x 0.92) x 100 = 89%
$/lb (bulk) 33/10 = $3.30/lb
$/lb (PLS) 3.3/0.89 = $3.70/lb
Seed Manufacturer Y 10lbs
Pure seed 91%
PLS (0.91 x 0.82) x 100 = 74.%
$/lb (bulk) 30/10 = $3/lb
$/lb (PLS) 3.0/0.74 = $4.05/lb
According to these calculations, seed manufacturer X is actually a better value than Y. Using this process, especially when purchasing seed in bulk, you can be a practical money saver.
Now that you know what all those numbers on the seed tag of your favorite food plot seed mean and you know how to calculate PLS, you will be able to plant your food plots at the most effective rate possible. Remember, regardless of whether you are planting acres of soybeans with a no-till drill or frost seeding a ½-acre clover patch, knowing how to calculate PLS will allow you to be more successful and save money when planting food plots.
A recent study in Costa Rica by scientists at Princeton University-Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and the University of Pennsylvania-Ecology & Biodiversity showed how agricultural waste could help successfully remediate barren tropical forest sites.
A deal between an orange juice manufacturer and advisors for the Área de Conservación Guanacaste was struck that allowed 1,000 truckloads (12 metric tons) of orange peels and pulp to be unloaded on nutrient-poor soils dominated by invasive grass within one of Costa Rica’s national parks in the mid-1990s. The land was left to rest for sixteen years. Now, the forest has begun the lengthy process of regeneration and some secondary forest regeneration has been observed. The peels were spread over 3 ha (7 acres) and scientists measured an increase of 176% in aboveground biomass. The distinction between the orange-fertilized land and the unfertilized areas was pronounced. Orange-fertilized areas demonstrated more tree biomass and species diversity and richer soils than their counterparts.
This research shows what could happen when the environmental community and industry find a medium where they can work together to come up with problem solutions. Perhaps, in future, similar uses can be found for agricultural excess here in the United States.
Treuer TLH, Choi JJ, Janzen DH, Hallwachs W, Peréz-Aviles D, Dobson AP, Powers JS, Shanks LC, Werden LK, Wilcove DS. (2017) Low-cost agricultural waste accelerates tropical forest regeneration. Restoration Ecology, DOI: 10.1111/rec.12565
Indiana Forestry & Woodland Owners Association
Purdue Extension-Forestry and Natural Resources workshops
Forest Improvement Handbook, The Education Store, Purdue Extension resource center
Shaneka Lawson, USDA Forest Service/HTIRC Research Plant Physiologist/Adjunct Assistant Professor
Purdue University Department of Forestry and Natural Resources
Wild animals have a dispersal period where young move on to new ground to establish their own home range. This is nature’s way of mixing the gene pool. It also allows for species to reoccupy small, isolated habitat patches. Late summer and early fall is a common time to see juvenile snakes because of dispersal.
Snake identification questions are one of my most common that I receive from the public. Usually, people want to know if the snake is venomous or not. Most snakes in Indiana are not venomous. In fact, there are only four venomous species in Indiana. Their distributions are generally limited.
The snake pictured here to the right is a Northern Watersnake (Nerodia sipedon). Photo and identification request was submitted to our “Ask an Expert” web submission by Mr. R. Dearing. While only about a foot long here, adults can reach several feet in length. Coloration in them is variable, but they typically have dark bands on a lighter tan or brown background. The bands are complete towards the head and fragment towards the tail. This little snake found its way into Mr. Dearing’s house. Fortunately, he was able to catch it and return it to the creek behind their house—which explains why it was there in the first place.
Snakes and Lizards of Indiana, The Education Store, Purdue Extension
How can I tell if a snake is venomous, FAQs, Purdue Extension-Forestry and Natural Resources
Indiana Amphibian and Reptile ID Package, The Education Store, Purdue Extension
Ask An Expert, Purdue Extension-Forestry and Natural Resources
Brian MacGowan, Extension Wildlife Specialist
Department of Forestry & Natural Resources, Purdue University
Take a look at the recent Indiana Woodland Steward Newsletter, a resource that’s full of a variety of valuable information to foresters, woodland owners, timber marketing specialists and any woodland enthusiasts. This issue includes topics such as a forest management, what private woodland owners are doing about invasive plants, the threat of callery pears, as well as much more.
Hardwood Ecosystem Experiment, Purdue University FNR
Fertilizing, Pruning, and Thinning Hardwood Plantations, The Education Store, Purdue Extension Resource Center
TCD-Black Walnut Trees, Thousand Cankers Disease
Environmental and Management Injury in Hardwood Tree Plantations, The Education Store, Purdue Extension
The Indiana Woodland Steward Institute is an entity made from 11 organizations within the state including Purdue University, Indiana DNR, and Indiana Hardwood Lumbermen’s Association that works to promote best usage practices of Indiana’s woodland resources through their Woodland Steward publication.
Brian MacGowan, Extension Wildlife Specialist
Department of Forestry & Natural Resources, Purdue University
Dan Shaver, Project Director and Forester
The Nature Conservancy
Students in Forestry and Natural Resources (FNR) continue to volunteer for Hands of the Future, Inc., a non-profit program whose mission is to help educate children about the outdoors and natural resources. As this program continues to grow, one of their dreams has been to find woods to create a children’s forest. To have a natural site that has been embellished upon with children’s needs in mind and to encourage outdoor play and adventures.
The students plan on transforming 18.8 acres of idle woods into Zonda’s Children’s Forest. The children’s forest will be composed of six main areas:
Donations to help make Zonda’s Children’s Forest a reality can be made here. They have six months to raise $235,000 in order to purchase the woods.
Volunteers & Interns:
Older students and adults can apply to be a volunteer. Volunteers are always appreciated, no past experience necessary. If you love nature and kids you will enjoy this program. Internships are available for college students, contact Zonda Bryant.
Zonda Bryant, Director
If you or someone you know loves to learn about wildlife, especially reptiles and amphibians, then you will be interested in our new special offer package. We are offering our complete collection of reptile and amphibian field guides (4 softcover books) for 10% of the price of each individual book. These books cover all of the reptiles and amphibians that are found in the state of Indiana. They include detailed physical descriptions, distribution maps, and interesting information about the ecology of each species. All of the included books have been peer-reviewed by experts in the field of herpetology.
The Indiana Amphibian and Reptile ID Package can be purchased from the Purdue Education Store for $36.00.
Nick Burgmeier, Research Biologist and Extension Wildlife Specialist
Purdue Department of Forestry and Natural Resources
‘Twas the day before Arbor Day, when all through the park
Not a creature was stirring, no chirp, squeak, or bark;
The birds were perched on the utility wires with care,
In hopes that many trees soon would be there;
All types of squirrels, gray, fox, and red;
Had visions of oak trees dancing in their head;
And mamma with her overalls, and I my work jeans,
Were prepared and ready to make the park green,
When out in the park there arose such a clatter,
I sprang to my window to see what was the matter.
Away out my door I flew like a flash,
Running to the crowd that was gathered ‘round the ash.
The dead looking tree with no leaves to show,
Gave a glimmer of midday through its branches to objects below,
When what to my wondering eyes came ‘round the corner with ease,
But a miniature truck and in the bed, eight tiny trees,
With a little old driver so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be Mayor Nick.
The trees looking so healthy and flourishing as they came,
He whistled, and shouted, and called them by name:
“White Oak! Red Cedar! Silver Maple and Black Cherry!
Cottonwood, Black Walnut, American Beech and Hackberry!
It is time to grab your gloves, shovels, and spades!” He did call,
“Now plant away! Plant away! Plant away all!”
With his blueprints out he started to show,
Where in the park each tree would go;
So excited and anxious with all my gear I flew
To the truck full of trees, and Mayor Nicolas too.
And then, in a moment, I heard on the road
The roaring of more trucks with trees overflowed.
As I lifted my head, and was turning around,
The city forester and many arborists came with a bound.
Mayor Nick had called in the professionals to help us out,
So we all would understand what this project was all about.
“Before we start planting, I want to explain
the benefits from these trees the city will gain!
Trees increase property value and improve living conditions.
They also relieve stress and help with CO2 emissions.
Better air and water quality, and sound barriers, too,
And the best part is the beautiful new view!”
After Mayor Nick’s speech, the city forester stepped in
“Whose ready to plant some trees?” He said with a grin.
The crowd cheered and the project was now on its way
Making the park beautiful and green in honor of Arbor Day.
First thing we had to do, was remove the dead trees.
The park was originally filled with ash, which was a feast for EAB.
The arborists cut all the trees down one by one.
There was so much help, in no time the cleanup was done.
As we finally started planting, the professionals came around
Making sure we were putting the trees properly into the ground.
I learned that you cut and remove only 1/3-1/2 of the B&B,
Then, you check the roots, the most important part of the tree.
If the tree has spiraling roots, all four sides must be sawed,
So the tree’s way of nutrient uptake and anchorage is not flawed.
It is also important that the root flare is not below the soil line,
Many people tend to bury it, thinking their tree will be fine.
Before planting your tree, consider the tree’s full-grown size.
Improper planting can cause the tree to die otherwise.
I’m so glad I decided to volunteer today
I learned so much about planting trees the right way!
After countless hours of hard work and sweat,
Mayor Nick’s goals for the park were finally met.
He thanked everyone, and as he drove out of sight,
He shouted “Happy Arbor Day to all, and to all a good night!”
Arbor Day Paper, FNR-445 Urban Forestry Topics
Author: Erin Hipskind, BS 2016
Arbor Day is an annual observance that celebrates the role of trees in our lives and promotes tree planting and care. As a formal holiday, it was first observed in 1872, in Nebraska, but tree planting festivals are as old as civilization. The tree has appeared throughout history and literature as the symbol of life. Arbor Day celebrations for 2017 is on Saturday, April 29th. Check out activities around your area: Purdue Extension County Offices, Indiana Department of Natural Resources or Tippecanoe Soil & Water Conservation District.
Tree Installation: Process and Practices, The Education Store-Purdue Extension resource center
Tree Planting Part 1: Choosing a Tree – video, The Education Store
Tree Planting Part 2: Planting Your Tree – video, The Education Store
Lindsey Purcell, Urban Forestry Specialist
Purdue University, Department of Forestry and Natural Resources
Professional arborists, horticulturists, including lawn and tree care companies, garden centers, and landscapers, require training in proper management techniques and pest control to better serve their customers and protect the environment.
What comes to mind when you think of Purdue Extension? Agriculture and natural resources? Maybe Indiana 4-H? Right on both counts, but perhaps you don’t know how #PurdueExtension helps build health coalitions statewide. Or how we’re revitalizing economic opportunity in Indiana’s rural regions, helping immigrants acclimate to life in our state, or offering parents programs that build confidence and strengthen families. Learn about all of this and more in the 2016 Purdue Extension Annual Report!
Jason Henderson, Director Cooperative Extension Service & Associate Dean