Got Nature? Blog

Posted on July 18th, 2018 in Forestry, Wildlife, Woodlands | No Comments »

Do you want to know how Food Plots fit into wildlife habitat management?
At this Purdue Extension-Forestry and Natural Resources Field Day experts will be discussing cool-season food plot strategies and visit some of these cool-season food plot demos.

Want to learn Forest Management tips for both Bucks and $$$?
The experts will also be sharing how to blend forest management for the benefits of timber and wildlife, as well as visiting a few of these forest management demo areas.

Come out and learn about Forest Management and Food Plots for Wildlife with us by registering today!

Deer eating on tree.

Register by contacting:
Cody Widner
Extension Wildlife Intern, Purdue
(574) 571-0090

Please Register by August 13th!
*All Activities are outside, please dress accordingly

For more details view: Forest Management and Food Plots for Wildlife Field Day Flyer.

Calibrating a No-Till Drill for Conservation Plantings and Wildlife Food Plots, Purdue Extension, Education Store
Food Plots for White-Tailed Deer, Purdue Extension, Education Store
The Basics of Managing Wildlife on Agricultural Lands, Purdue Extension, Education Store

Jarred Brooke, Wildlife Extension Specialist
Forestry and Natural Resources

Cody Widner, Purdue Extension Wildlife Intern
Forestry and Natural Resources

Mile-a-minute vine covering trees

(Figure 1) Mile-a-minute vine grows more than 25 feet in height in one growing season, overtopping shrubs, small trees and growing up forest edges.  Image by: USDA APHIS PPQ Archive, USDA APHIS PPQ,

Preventing the establishment of new invasive species is priority number one and the best expenditure of limited resources in an invasive species management program. Next in priority is early detection of and rapid response (EDRR) to the first report of a new invasion. Stopping invasive species from entering or, next best, at their initial point of introduction saves the incalculable costs later-on associated with rapidly spreading, all-consuming invasive species populations. The verification of a report of mile-a-minute vine (Persicaria perfoliata) on a property in Monroe County, Indiana on May 14, 2018 sets a historical prescedence demonstrating a growing capability of detecting and reporting new invaders. The population was very small at this spot and had apparently been sprayed by a homeowner with herbicide, not necessarily to kill the mile-a-minute, but likely to kill the companion multiflora rose.

Our hope is that this is the only instance of mile-a-minute vine in Indiana. There is a significant probability that it is not! In the coming months, a more thorough survey of this property and surrounding area will be conducted to look for more of the vine. But now Indiana stands on high alert as natural resource professionals keep a look out for more of this highly-invasive pest. However, there are too few professionals with eyes on the landscape. The more eyes trained to identify the very distinct characteristics of mile-a-minute, the higher the chance of us catching it before it explodes across the landscape, wreaking havoc and mayhem in our forests and fields, wildlife habitat and mushroom hunting and birding grounds.

Mile-a-minute leaves

(Figure 2) The leaves are simple, alternate, light green and a nearly perfect triangle shape.  Image by: Leslie J. Mehrhoff, University of Connecticut,

All landowners, land stewards, and nature lovers are needed to be additional eyes looking for this insidious threat this summer and in coming years. Please take a moment to learn its identifying characteristics. If you think you have found it, please report it on EDDMapS (Early Detection & Distribution Mapping System) or from your smart phone on the GLEDN (Great Lakes Early Detection Network) app. If you are unsure if you are correctly identifying it, please contact a forester or other natural resource professional for confirmation or just report it in EDDMapS or the GLEDN app, along with photos, and a professional in your area will verify its identification before it actually gets posted.

Mile-a-minute identification:

Mile-a-minute vine is a member of the buckwheat family, Polygonaceae. Although its common name exaggerates its growth potential, this annual vine can grow as much as 6 inches a day and can reach heights of more than 25 feet within the growing season. It forms very dense, tangled mats, growing over shrubs, small trees and up the sides of forest edges (Fig. 1). The leaves are simple, alternate, light green and a nearly perfect triangle shape (Fig. 2). The delicately narrow, green to red-tinted stems, and the petiole (leaf stem) and midrib on the underside of the leaves are armed with small, stiff, recurved barbs (Fig. 3). Small, cup- or saucer-shaped leaf structures, called ocreae, encircle the stem at each node (Fig. 4). Clusters of small white, rather inconspicuous, flowers emerge from the ocreae. Flowers develop into clusters of deep, iridescent blue berry-like fruits, approximately 5 mm in diameter, each fruit containing a single black or reddish-black hard seed, called an achene. Seeds are dispersed by birds and mammals, including chipmunks, squirrels and deer, which eat the fruit. Floodwaters facilitate long distance dispersal of seed.

Mile-a-minute fruit berries

(Figure 4) Small, cup- or saucer-shaped leaf structures, called ocreae, encircle the stem at each node. Flowers emerge from the ocreae and develop into clusters of deep, iridescent blueberry like fruits.  Image by: Leslie J. Mehrhoff, University of Connecticut,

Mile-a-minute thorns

(Figure 3) The delicately narrow, green to red-tinted stems, and the petiole (leaf stem) and midrib on the underside of the leaves are armed with small, stiff, recurved barbs.  Image by: Leslie J. Mehrhoff, University of Connecticut,

Mile-a-MinuteVine, FNR-481-W, The Education Store, Purdue Extension’s resource center
Mile-a-minute vine: What you need to know about the plant that can grow 6 inches a day, Indianapolis Star
Invasive Species – Indiana Department of Natural Resources (IDNR)
Ask an Expert – Purdue Extension-Forestry and Natural Resources
Indiana Invasive Species Council – Includes: IDNR, Purdue Department of Entomology and Professional Partners
Great Lakes Early Detection Network App (GLEDN) – The Center for Invasive Species & Ecosystem Health

Ron Rathfon, Regional Extension Forester SIPAC
Purdue Department of Forestry and Natural Resources

Posted on May 30th, 2018 in Got Nature for Kids, Wildlife, Woodlands | No Comments »

Question: This little guy lives around our house. We see him almost daily. Do you know what he is? Salamander? Skink? Lizard?

The animal pictured is both a lizard and a skink – specifically, a Common Five-lined Skink. More than 1,200 species of skinks are distributed worldwide. Most are medium-sized lizards with body lengths typically ranging 4-12 centimeters. Skinks are active and alert lizards covered with smooth overlapping scales on the sides and back.

Common Five-lined Skinks are usually 5-7 centimeters in body length(12-21 cm total length) and have smooth overlapping scales. Their heads are distinct from their necks and ear openings are smaller than the eyes. Physical characteristics of Common Five-lined Skinks vary by sex and age.  Juveniles have bright blue tails and shiny black bodies marked with five yellow longitudinal stripes. Adult males are uniformly brown and develop wider heads, with red to orange coloration on the snout and jaws. Very faint stripes also might be visible on some adult males. Adult females have brownish bodies marked with five yellowish to cream longitudinal stripes and sometimes have a hint of bluish tail.

Throughout most of Indiana, Common Five-lined Skinks are a common species of open woodlands and edges where stumps, logs, woody debris, and rock piles are present.  Porches and rock cover around homes and driveways offer good habitat for these lizards. Areas like these offer hiding places, areas to bask in the sun, and food. Most activity occurs on or near the ground, although they occasionally will climb trees. Their active season extends from April to October. Five-lined Skinks actively pursue a variety of invertebrates including insects, spiders and millipedes.

Snakes and Lizards of Indiana, The Education Store, Purdue Extension’s resource center
How can I tell if a snake is venomous,  Purdue Extension-Forestry and Natural Resources

Brian MacGowan, Extension Wildlife Specialist
Department of Forestry & Natural Resources, Purdue University

Two important holidays that celebration our connection to nature fall in April. The first, Earth Day, falls on April 21st and marks the 48th anniversary of the day when millions of people initiated a peaceful protest to voice their views of the negative impacts of industrial development. Worldwide air pollution had led to birth defects in children and overuse of pesticides and other pollutants was causing catastrophic declines in day

The movement was quickly supported by Congress and President Nixon worked to create the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Clean Water Act (CWA), and the Endangered Species Act (ESA) along with many other environmentally friendly initiatives. Now a global holiday, billions of people across 192 countries take part in Earth Day showing their love of the planet by planting trees and flowers, contacting their congressperson and pledging to uphold more Eco-friendly practices.

On January 4, 1872, J. Sterling Morton, a journalist and later editor of a Nebraska newspaper was a great supporter of the environment with a healthy love of trees in arbor day foundationparticular. In a meeting with the state board of Agriculture J. Sterling Morton, proposed a tree-planting holiday to be called “Arbor Day” for April 10, 1872. Estimates state that greater than one million trees were planted in Nebraska on the inaugural date. The success of the effort led the Nebraska governor (Robert W. Furnas) to make an official proclamation of the holiday on March 12, 1874. In 1885, Arbor Day was named a legal holiday and April 22 (J. Sterling Morton’s birthday) was deemed the permanent observance date. The success of the holiday spread nationwide as other states began holding their own Arbor Day celebrations and is now a well-celebrated holiday.

Earth Day, PDF
‘Twas the Day Before Arbor Day, Got Nature?, Purdue FNR-Extension
Tree Planting Part 1: Choosing a Tree, The Education Store, Purdue Extension

Shaneka Lawson, USDA Forest Service/HTIRC Research Plant Physiologist/Adjunct Assistant Professor
Purdue University Department of Forestry and Natural Resources

Prescribed fire is a great tool to improve the food and cover for a variety of wildlife species on your property. One of the most important aspects of using prescribed fire is making sure the fire is conducted safely. This point cannot be overstated, safe use of prescribed fire is paramount. Beyond taking the appropriate training courses or seeking help from a professional, one the most important aspects of safely conducting a prescribed fire is ensuring you have adequate firebreaks.

Firebreaks can serve multiple purposes related to the safe use of prescribed fire, and can provide additional food and cover for wildlife. The main purpose of firebreaks is to stop the fire from escaping the burn unit, but they also can provide quick and easy movement around the burn unit, help reduce the amount of people required for the burn, and can make igniting the fire safer. Here are a few examples of different types of firebreaks.

Logging Road

This logging road is a good example of an exisitng road that can be used as a firebreak.

Existing roads
Existing roads, whether they are paved, gravel, dirt, or logging roads, can serve as outstanding firebreaks, plus they require very little work to prepare prior to a burn. These are also one of the cheapest options for firebreaks. If you are using gravel, dirt, or logging roads as firebreaks, you need to make sure there is not excessive vegetation or leaf litter in the road. Too much vegetation
on the firebreak could lead to an escape.

Streams, creeks, or other bodies of water
Another cheap and easy option for firebreaks is to use existing streams, river, or bodies of water. If you are using water features as a firebreak, here are some things to consider: is the stream or river wide enough to stop the fire from escaping and can people helping with the fire move easily around, across, or through the stream or river to access various part of the burn unit or to stop an escaped fire?

Crop fields
Crop fields with cool-season grains (wheat, oats, rye) or cover crops can serve as a great firebreak. Crop fields with only soybean or corn stubble should be used with caution, as fire may creep through a field with excessive stubble. For fields with crop stubble, planting the edge of the field in a cool-season crop (wheat, clover, oats, etc.), disking the edge of the field, or wetting the crop stubble are all steps that can used to improve the field as a firebreak

Leaf-Blown Firebreak

This leaf-blown firebreak was only 3-4 feet wide, but it easily stopped the fire in this situation.

Leaf-blown firebreaks
If you are burning in the woods, using a leaf blower to remove leaf litter and expose bare mineral soil is a quick and easy way to create a firebreak. These firebreaks do not need to be as wide as those in an old field or native grass stand because the flame length when burning in the woods is typically much shorter than burning in a field.

Disked firebreaks for multiple purposes
Disking or tilling to expose bare mineral soil is an extremely effective method of creating a firebreak. These breaks can also provide food and/or cover for various wildlife species if managed correctly. Disking the firebreak and then letting the firebreak remain fallow during the growing season creates outstanding cover for brooding turkeys, pheasants, and quail.

You can also plant the firebreaks after disking to create a food plot for various wildlife species. If you disk the firebreaks in the fall and plan to burn in the spring, you can plant the firebreaks with a mix of wheat and crimson clover or a mix of perennial clovers to create a great food plot for deer and turkey. You can also plant the firebreaks with millet, grain sorghum, or sunflowers after you have burned the field in the spring.

Fire creeping

If you use mowed firebreaks you run the risk of fire creeping across the firebreak and escaping, especially if there is too much thatch in the firebreak.

My absolute favorite multiple purpose firebreak is one that is disked in Aug-Sep, planted to winter wheat (40-60 lbs/ac), and then left to remain fallow after the wheat has produced seed. This firebreak effectively stops fire, provide green browse from the fall through the spring, provides seed during the early summer, and provides excellent brood cover throughout the summer and early fall. This is truly an all-in-one firebreak.

Mowed grass firebreak
Mowed grass firebreaks are not ideal, but they can be used in certain situations. If mowed firebreaks are used, you must be sure that there is not excessive thatch built up in the break. Too much thatch will allow the fire to creep across the break and potentially escape. Even on firebreaks without excessive thatch, using water to create a “wet” firebreak is recommended.

No matter which type of firebreak you choose to use, taking the time to make sure the firebreak is adequately installed and is sufficient to stop the fire from escaping will help make the burn safer and will create less headaches for you when conducting the burn.

Additional Resources:
Firebreaks for Prescribed Burning, Oklahoma State University Extension
Prescribed fire: 6 things to consider before you ignite, Got Nature?, Purdue Extension-FNR,
On-line Basic Prescribed Fire Training, Extension, USDA and NIFA
Publications Focus on Plan, Safety of Prescribed Burns, Iowa State Extension,
eFIRE, North Carolina State Extension
Renovating native warm-season grass stands for wildlife: A Land Manager’s Guide, The Education Store, Purdue Extension resource center
Calibrating a No-Till Drill for Conservation Plantings and Wildlife Food Plots, The Education Store

Jarred Brooke, Extension Wildlife Specialist
Purdue Department of Forestry and Natural Resources

Posted on March 21st, 2018 in Forestry, How To, Wildlife, Woodlands | No Comments »

Handling Harvested Game, FNR-555-WV, videoIn this new video series Handling Harvested Game: Field Dressing, wildlife biologist Bob Cordes with the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife shows how to properly treat and handle deer in order to receive the best results for your venison. This video shares step by step safe handling techniques to reach your goals in providing a wholesome  source of meat for you and your family.

More resources:
Handling Harvested Game – Episode 2, Purdue Extension-Forestry and Natural Resources YouTube Playlist
How to Score Your White-tailed Deer, video, The Education Store, Purdue Extension Resource Center
Age Determination in White-tailed Deer, video, The Education Store,
How to Build a Plastic Mesh Deer Exclusion Fence, The Education Store,
Bovine Tuberculosis in Wild White-tailed Deer, The Education Store,
Indiana Deer Hunting, Biology and Management, Indiana Department of Natural Resources (IDNR)

Rod Williams, Associate Professor of Wildlife Science/Engagement Faculty Fellow
Purdue University Department of Forestry and Natural Resources

Posted on January 31st, 2018 in Forestry, Wildlife, Woodlands | No Comments »

Harvest site at the Hardwood Ecosystem Experiment.There has been much debate in the popular press lately regarding the role of timber harvesting on forest communities. A common focus of this debate is the perceived impacts to wildlife. Most believe that leaving our forests alone is best for wildlife. However, to provide habitat for all of our native forest wildlife species, forests need to be diverse in terms of age, species and area. Harvesting timber is the primary means of achieving this structural diversity. The purpose of this article is to summarize some key points regarding the effects of harvesting on reptiles and amphibians. These points are drawn mostly from the Hardwood Ecosystem Experiment (HEE), an ongoing research study in southern Indiana. Its primary focus is to study forest management and its effects on plants and animals. A more detailed summary may be found in Forest Management for Reptiles and Amphibians.

There has been several large-scale studies that have investigated the effects of tree canopy removal on amphibians and reptiles. These include the HEE in Indiana, the Missouri Ozark Forest Ecosystem Project (MOFEP), and the Land-use Effects on Amphibian Populations (LEAP). Much of the work from these projects has been published in the scientific literature. All of these studies demonstrate that the response of amphibians and reptiles to timber harvesting is variable—it cannot simply be quantified as good or bad. Indeed, avoiding negative impacts to all reptiles and amphibians as a result of timber harvesting is neither possible nor desirable since disturbance-dependent wildlife species1,2 and many mature forest species3, require early successional forests.

Timber Rattlesnake

  • Timber rattlesnake in handling tube.For the focal species studied on the HEE, most exhibited moderate or no response in 1-3 years following timber harvests. The focal species I and colleagues have studied were timber rattlesnakes (Crotalus horridus), eastern box turtles (Terrapene carolina), and terrestrial salamanders. Timber harvests had no effect on the area male or female adult timber rattlesnakes used during the active season. There was no evidence that snakes changed movement behaviors to avoid clearcuts4. Indeed, several snakes were observed within clearcuts for several weeks and across multiple years. Annual survival of rattlesnakes on the HEE sites was high during the active season (72-98%) and winter (97-99%). Timber harvesting had no impact on survival. Declines in female survival was most affected by declines in prey abundance the previous year which were due to tree mast failures5. The level of acorns and nuts (i.e., mast) produced in woodlands naturally vary from year to year. When the small mammal population declined due to mast failure, these snakes were apparently impacted the following year.

Eastern Box Turtle

  • Eastern box turtleFor box turtles, there was no effect of timber harvests on home-range size, but the average daily distance traveled by turtles decreased by 30 percent following harvest, and turtles maintained 9 percent higher body temperatures6. Temperatures in harvest openings were 29 percent warmer in the summer and 31 percent colder in the winter than forested sites. Despite this change, turtles continued to use harvest openings during the active season, but tended to make shorter, more frequent movements in and out of harvests. Turtles likely used harvest edges for cover, thermoregulation and, possibly, foraging opportunities6. Harvested areas offered potential hibernation sites based on soil profile temperatures, slope aspect and depth of hibernation7. Both active and hibernal data suggest the level of harvesting on the HEE has modest effects on box turtle behavior, at least in the short term. To date, there is no evidence to support whether these changes have any impact—positive or negative—on box turtles.

Woodland Salamanders

  • Eastern red-backed salamanders.The response of woodland salamanders to harvests was species-specific8. The relative abundance of eastern red-backed salamanders (Plethodon cinereus) and northern slimy salamanders (Plethodon glutinosus) declined from pre- to post-harvest in patch cuts (1 to 3 acres) and clearcuts (10 acres). Red-backed salamanders also declined in control sites, suggesting factors other than the harvests contributed to salamander declines over the study period. However, red-backed salamander declines observed in control sites were not as severe as those seen within patch cuts and clearcuts, indicating harvests were at least partially responsible for observed declines within the harvest boundaries. The relative abundance of northern zigzag salamanders (Plethodon dorsalis) did not decline from pre- to post-harvest in any harvest type, and increased on sites adjacent to clearcuts.
  • These findings suggest canopy removal (2-10 acre gaps) has short-term local impacts on terrestrial salamanders in terms of relative abundance, but effects do not necessarily extend to the adjacent forest matrix. A caveat to these findings is that the ultimate fate of displaced individuals remains unknown. That is, changes in relative abundance does not mean declines in survival. Indeed, sites adjacent to clearcuts experienced an increase in counts of zigzag salamanders, which could reflect the evacuation of individuals from the clearcut into the intact forest. It is also important to note that other factors influence the abundance of terrestrial salamanders. For example, in addition to differences between seasons (spring versus fall), drought played a significant role in declines in salamander abundance across all study area.

Forest management sometimes leads to short-term loses for some species but is critical to the long-term sustainability of many other species. Looking at the responses of just a few species, within cutover areas for a few years paints an incomplete picture. A large-scale, long-term perspective is necessary when considering forest management. This is the true value of well-designed studies such as the HEE. With experimental control and replication, researchers can untangle the story on what are the true effects of forest management over a large area over many decades. The HEE has shed light on many answers so far. We can look forward towards many more to come.

Wildlife Responses to Timber Harvesting, Video-The Education Store-Purdue Extension Resource Center
Hardwood Ecosystem Experiment – Forest Birds, Video-The Education Store
Managing Woodlands for Birds, Video-The Education Store
Sustaining Our Oak-Hickory Forests, Video-The Education Store
Breeding Birds and Forest Management: the Hardwood Ecosystem Experiment and the Central Hardwoods Region, The Education Store
Forest Management for Reptiles and Amphibians: A Technical Guide for the Midwest, The Education Store
Addressing Concerns About Management of Indiana’s Forests, Department of Forestry and Natural Resources, Purdue University
Hardwood Ecosystem Experiment (HEE)

Brian MacGowan, Extension Wildlife Specialist
Department of Forestry & Natural Resources, Purdue University

1 Thompson, F. R., III, and D. R Dessecker. 1997. Management of early-successional communities in central hardwood forests: with special emphasis on the ecology and management of oaks, ruffed grouse, and forest songbirds. U.S. Forest Service General Technical Report NC-195, St. Paul, MN, USA.

2 Greenberg, C. H., B. Collins, F. R. Thompson, III, and McNab, W. H. 2011. “What are early successional habitats, why are they important, and how can they be sustained?” Pages 1-10 in Sustaining young forest communities: ecology and management of early successional habitats in the Central Hardwood Region, USA. C. H. Greenberg, B. Collins, and F. R. Thompson, III., editors. Springer, New York, NY, USA.

3 Chandler, C. C., D. I. King, and R. B. Chandler. 2012. Do mature birds prefer early-successional habitat during the post-fledging period? Forest Ecology and Management 264:1-9.

4 MacGowan, B.J., Currylow, A.F.T., and MacNeil, J.E. 2017. Short-term responses of Timber Rattlesnakes (Crotalus horridus) to even-aged timber harvests in Indiana. Forest Ecology and Management 387(1):30-36.

5 Olson, Z.H., B.J. MacGowan, M.T. Hamilton, A.F.T. Currylow, and R.N. Williams. 2015. Survival of timber rattlesnakes: Investigating individual, environmental, and ecological effects. Herpetologica 71:274-279.

6 Currylow, A.F., B.J. MacGowan, and R.N. Williams. 2012a. Hibernal thermal ecology of eastern box turtles within a managed forest landscape. Journal of Wildlife Management 77(2):326-335.

7 Currylow, A.F., B.J. MacGowan, and R.N. Williams. 2012b. Short-term forest management effects on a long-lived ectotherm. PLoS ONE 7(7):e40473.

8 MacNeil, J.E. and R.N.Williams. 2014. Effects of timber harvests and silvicultural edges on terrestrial salamanders. PLoS ONE, 9(12):e114683.

Posted on January 11th, 2018 in Forestry, Gardening, How To, Wildlife, Woodlands | Comments Off on Seed Fillers and Carriers for Planting Native Warm-Season Grasses and Forbs

seeder on land

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.

seeding box


No-till drill planting box
Recommended fillers
Small-seed box, when planting switchgrass, clovers, or small-seeded native forbs.
Cat litter, clay absorbent
Grass or fluffy-seed box: when planting big bluestem, little bluestem, indiangrass, or native grass/forb mixtures.
Grain or large-seed box: when planting native warm-season grass/forb mixtures
Cracked corn


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:

Pelletized lime
Cracked corn
Recommended rate
200 lbs/acre
40 lbs/acre
32 lbs/acre
1:1 ratio of seed-to-cracked corn by weight

Table adapted from the publication Warm season grass establishment,
Indiana Department of Natural Resources, 2006.

pelletized lime

Pelletized lime mixed with native grass and forb seed prior to broadcasting.


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.

Other Resources:
Pure Live Seed: Calculations and Considerations for Wildlife Food Plots, Detailed Resource, Purdue Extension-FNR
Calibrating a No-Till Drill for Conservation Plantings and Wildlife Food Plots-video, The Education Store, Purdue Extension Resource Center
Renovating Native Warm-Season Grass Stands for Wildlife: A Land Manager’s Guide, The Education Store

Printable Version:
PDF available for print: Seed Fillers and Carriers for Planting Native Warm-Season Grasses and Forbs (pdf 771.45) detail resource.

Moriah Boggess, Purdue Extension Wildlife Intern
Jarred Brooke, Purdue Extension Wildlife Specialist

Posted on January 9th, 2018 in Forestry, Gardening, How To, Wildlife, Woodlands | Comments Off on Pure Live Seed: Calculations and Considerations for Wildlife Food Plots


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.

Important items to look for when purchasing seed are explained below.
Important seed information

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.

seed coating

Most pre-inoculated clover seed will have a colored seed coating (purple and orange seed), which helps distinguish it from uninoculated seed (tan seed in this mix).

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”.

Iron clay cow peas information

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
85% germination
(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%
Germination 82%
Price                                                    $30
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%
Germination 92%
Price                                                    $33
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.

Let’s Plant

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.

Other Resources:
Seed Fillers and Carriers for Planting Native Warm-Season Grasses and Forbs, Detailed Resource, Purdue Extension-FNR
Calibrating a No-Till Drill for Conservation Plantings and Wildlife Food Plots-video, The Education Store, Purdue Extension Resource Center
Renovating Native Warm-Season Grass Stands for Wildlife: A Land Manager’s Guide, The Education Store

Printable Version:
PDF available for print: Pure Live Seed: Calculations and Considerations for Wildlife Food Plots (pdf 636.75) detail resource.

Moriah Boggess, Purdue Extension Wildlife Intern
Jarred Brooke, Purdue Extension Wildlife Specialist

It’s that time of year again. The desperate rush to find the ‘perfect’ tree for your annual year-end celebration is very real. Unfortunately, you chose a tree last year that died within a month and was disappointingly dull. This year, you are going to do your homework to find the best tree available.

Home preparations:

  1. Tree Location: Select an area out of direct sunlight and away from the heating vents in your house for the tree. Excessive sunlight and heat will cause your tree to fade and dry out more quickly.
  2. Ceiling height: Measure your ceiling heights and take into account the height of your tree stand and the tree topper or you’ll have to make excessive cuts in your tree to adjust for the differences. Write down these measurements.
  3. Tree shape: Visualize the shape of the tree that best fits the space you have available (tall and thin, short and broad) and keep that in mind. Certain tree types are more expensive therefore knowing your budget will help ensure you purchase the perfect tree for your household. Measure the width of the space and write down these measurements.
  4. Tree stand: Anticipate needing to support your tree stand and acquire a piece of plywood that you can bolt the stand to keep it level. Measure the inside diameter of the tree stand and write down the measurements.

Choosing a tree farm:

  1. Buy from a local farm if at all possible. These trees are bred to be hardy and to remain fresh longer.

Bring to the farm:

  1. List of required measurements for your perfect tree.
  2. A large unbreakable ornament to view branch spacing (ensures your ornaments will hang straight).
  3. Measuring tape to measure prospective trees before getting them home.
  4. Thick gloves for handling your tree as the needles may be sharp and the bark rough on your bare hands.
  5. An old blanket that can cover the truck bed or car roof to protect it from sap.
  6. Rope, twine, bungee cords, and twist ties to secure the tree to the car if these items are not provided by the tree farm.

Species selection:

  1. Each tree species is different so careful selection is important: Soft needle species (pines, firs) are best for homes with small children while hard needle species (spruce) are the adult choice.
  2. Firs often have shorter needles, strong stems, and well-spaced branches making it easier to hang lights and decorations.Needle Charcteristics Table*click image to enlarge

At the tree farm:

  1. Check freshness: Bend a needle with your fingers (firs snap, pines ben).
  2. Gentle run your hand over the branch from inside to out or if possible, gently bounce the tree on the cut end. If a few interior needles come off, it is probably fresh; if many exterior needles fall off, choose a different tree.
  3. Remove and crush a few needles in your hand, if there is little scent choose another tree.
  4. The tree should have even coloration 360° around and needles should be fresh (shiny, green) and not old (dried out, brown).

When you and your tree get home:

  1. Protect Your Floor– Place a plastic or other waterproof covering on the floor where your tree will stand so you don’t ruin the carpet or get watermarks on hardwood flooring.
  2. Put down waterproof coverings or plastic sheeting under the tree skirt to prevent ruining the carpet or hardwood floor if water is spilled.
  3. Make a fresh cut at the base of the tree, take off ½” from the base so that tree can absorb more water (slows needle drop and helps maintain tree color) and immediately place the tree upright in the stand with lukewarm water.
  4. Trim any low-hanging branches that hit furniture or are too thin for ornaments parallel to the floor. Keep them in a bucket of water before using as decorations.
  5. Secure your tree to the wall or heavy furniture if you have pets and children that could knock it over or heavy ornaments that may sway the tree.
  6. Ensure that your tree stand always has water in it.
  7. Take a photo of your tree when set up and secured as a reminder for the following year.

After the holidays:

  1. Recycle your tree through your local waste management company.
  2. Trees can also be chipped for mulch. Never burn your tree because of the likelihood of starting a fire.

Examples of holiday tree types:

Examples of holiday tree types*click image to enlarge

Which Real Indiana Christmas Tree Will You Select? – Got Nature?, Purdue FNR-Extension
Living Christmas Trees For The Holidays and Beyond, The Education Store
Tips for First-Time Buyers of Real Christmas Trees, The Education Store
Growing Christmas Trees, The Education Store

Shaneka Lawson, USDA Forest Service/HTIRC Research Plant Physiologist/Adjunct Assistant Professor
Purdue University Department of Forestry and Natural Resources

Got Nature?