Title:  Production and White-tailed Deer Selection of Naturally Occurring Forages Following Burning and Fertilization
Author(s): Christopher E. Shaw, Craig A. Harper – University of Tennessee; Michael Black–ATA Conservation; Allan E. Houston–University of Tennessee
Year: 2007
Abstract: Prescribed burning and fertilization are often promoted to improve forage availability and palatability for white-tailed deer. We implemented prescribed fire, understory fertilization, and prescribed fire with understory fertilization with controls in two closed-canopied hardwood stands in Tennessee and measured leaf biomass (lbs/acre) and selection of naturally occurring forages by white-tailed deer pre- and post-treatment. At one site (Rocky River), woody leaf biomass increased (109 to 196 and 91 to 232 lbs/acre, respectively) following prescribed fire and prescribed fire with understory fertilization. Woody leaf biomass did not change (136 to 106 and 59 to 71 lbs/acre, respectively) following fertilization only or in control plots. During the pre-treatment summer, deer selected greenbrier, blackgum, and blackberry at this site. Herbaceous biomass increased across all plots during the posttreatment year; however, there was no increase as a result from any treatment. At Ames Plantation, there was no difference in woody leaf biomass between pre-treatment and post-treatment years (153 to 165 lbs/acre). Greenbrier, supplejack, blackgum, rose, and winged elm were selected at this site. Herbaceous biomass increased following prescribed fire and prescribed fire with understory fertilization (7 to 16 and 1 to 49 lbs/acre, respectively). Although statistical increases in forage availability were measured at both sites, we do not believe these increases are biologically significant, especially when compared to increases following stand disturbance. To increase available nutrition for whitetailed deer, we recommend landowners consider thinning and timber harvest operations as well as quality forage food plots.

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