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College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences


Manage Your Woodland as Food for Wildlife at Farm Science Review

August 19, 2008

LONDON, Ohio -- Landowners interested in sustaining area wildlife for conservation, hunting, or just for observation can learn how to manage their wooded areas as a long-term food source at this year's Farm Science Review.

Dave Apsley, an Ohio State University Extension natural resources specialist, will present "Promoting Natural Food Production for Wildlife In and Around Your Forest" on Sept. 16 at 1 p.m. at the Gwynne Conservation Area Interpretive Center. Farm Science Review will be held Sept. 16-18 at the Molly Caren Agricultural Center in London, Ohio.

Apsley said that managing woodland areas for food production is a better option than establishing food plots.

"We want people to look at the long-term capacity of what trees, shrubs and other plants can provide for animals year after year. When you think about it, a half-acre or quarter-acre food plot of corn or forages is not nearly enough for sustainability and when winter sets in, those food plots will no longer be available," said Apsley. "You want to provide food to wildlife during a time when food is least available."

Apsley said that any forested area has the capabilities of producing food, or mast, for wildlife. The idea is to maintain and diversify plant species by utilizing various forest management techniques.

"The first step in encouraging the balance of plant, tree and shrub species is to be aware of what you have on your land and to understand the value that each plant species brings. Not only are some plants a food source, but they are also ideal nesting sites for wildlife and are a critical aspect of habitat management," said Apsley.

The following are some recommended tips for getting started in promoting natural food production:

• Inventory your woods to determine the number and diversity of mast producers. Mast producers include trees that produce hard-shelled seeds, such as acorns, walnuts, hickory nuts, hazelnuts and beechnuts.

• Strive to maintain as many hard-mast producers as practical. The ultimate goal is to maintain 20 or more hard mast-producing trees per acre of woodland.

• Maintain two to three fruit-producing grape vines per acre on trees that are otherwise of little value for mast or timber production. Grapevines are often damaging to forest trees, but they provide food and cover for many wildlife species.

• Mow or cut one-fifth of shrubby areas along woodlands each year. This results in a range of ages of shrubby mast producers to help ensure consistent food production year to year.

• Plant a variety of native mast-producing shrubs and trees in areas where natural regeneration of these species is not likely to occur.

• Control non-native invasive plants, such as autumn olive, multi-flora rose, tree-of-heaven, and Japanese honeysuckle, when they threaten to out-compete native mast producers.

More information on enhancing food production for woodland wildlife can be found by logging on to

Farm Science Review is sponsored by the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center. It attracts upwards of 140,000 visitors from all over the country and Canada, who come for three days to peruse 4,000 product lines from 600 commercial exhibitors, and learn the latest in agricultural research, conservation, family and nutrition, and gardening and landscape.

Tickets are $8 at the gate or $5 in advance when purchased from county offices of OSU Extension or participating agribusinesses. Children 5 and younger are admitted free. Hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sept. 16-17 and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sept. 18. For more information, log on to

Candace Pollock
Dave Apsley