Keeping deer out of the soybeans

White-tailed deer love to dine on soybeans. But if they feed heavily while the plant is growing and spreading out nodes, it can have a devastating effect on yields.

Cory Heaton is an Extension assistant professor of wildlife and fisheries biology at Clemson University. He has done research trials with 15 commercial chemical repellants over the past couple of years, and is impressed by what he’s seen.

"If we can go back and use Aldicarb within the labeled rate for early-season insect control in soybeans, we’re getting spectacular deer control as well so it’s kind of a freebee there. And most of the commercial repellants that we’ve tested have produced pretty decent results on keeping deer out of those beans," says Heaton. "Depending on the product, it looks like we get about a 10-day-to-2-week window, and of course it’s going to be dependent on rain."

Deer tend to browse on the edges of a soybean field. They will occasionally wander farther in, but Heaton says they probably feel safer staying along the edge. However, when you apply the repellant, you will have to spray more than just the edges.

"You’re really going to have to spray the whole field because what we saw in research plots, when we just treat the edges of the field, the deer actually just moved right through that treated area and got further out into the field to start feeding," says Heaton. "So, if you don’t treat the whole field, they will walk out further and feed deeper into the field than normal."

Ideally, he says plants should be treated with a repellant as soon as they emerge to give them a fighting chance. Later on, if you see deer hitting the fields, go in and spray again.