The Science Behind Growing Chufa By Courtesy of the National Wild Turkey Federation
Jun 22, 2008 - 2:07:12 PM
Chufa provides essential and easy meals for wild turkeys and other wildlife.
Click image to download | Credit: NWTF
soon after the end of spring turkey season. Varieties such as Turkey
Gold chufa are selected for fast germination in cooler weather, and
planting early helps get a head start on weed competition. When
planting other varieties, wait until the average daily temperature
stays in the upper 80s.
lime and use products such as DeltAg’s Soil Solution, Plant Power and
Seed Coat to increase chufa tuber size and the number of tubers
Avoid planting too thick. Chufa can’t stand competition for sunlight and nutrients, even against itself.
your seed tag. The amount of dormant seed is listed on some state
germination tags. Although dormant seed is not “dead” seed, it will not
grow. Typically, the Turkey Gold chufa have low to no dormant seed
Manage your weeds so they won’t choke out chufa.
Gold Chufa is available through the NWTF's Project HELP (Habitat
Enhancement Land Program). Turkey Gold Chufa is available in 10- and
50-pound bags. A 10-pound bag covers one-quarter acre, while a 50-pound
bag covers one acre. To place an order or receive a free catalog, call
1-800-THE-NWTF or visit Turkey Shoppe Online.
Orders may be faxed to the NWTF’s sales department at (803) 637-9960 or
mailed to P.O. Box 530, Edgefield, SC 29824, Attn: Sales Department.
Orders may also be charged to VISA, MasterCard, Discover or American
Express, or paid by check or money order. Sales tax will be charged
proper habitat management, wildlife prospers. And, research by the
University of South Carolina provides some insight on how to better
grow chufa and ultimately attract turkeys to your land.
chufa, a grass-like plant grown mainly for its tubers, has been
cultivated for more than 100 years in the Southeast, little
science-based management information existed on the plant until
recently. To provide fact-based information to landowners, the National
Wild Turkey Federation recently funded a project through the University
of South Carolina to find more concrete evidence on the benefits of
When planted in the early summer,
chufa requires a 90- to 110-day growing season. It grows its tubers,
which measure 1/2- to 3/4-inches long and are similar to potatoes, just
under the surface of the ground in a cluster. Because of the shallow
and packed nature of the tubers, wildlife — especially wild turkeys and
waterfowl — can easily reach the nutritious food, which is high in oil
and sugar content.
Soil and fertilization
The first finding in the report regarded the types of soil the chufa
was planted in. Typically, land managers recommend planting chufa in
sandy loam soils, based on the assumption that sandy soils allow wild
turkeys to easily scratch the tubers out of the ground.
tested three soil types to determine if soil type has any influence on
tuber production,” says Dr. James Earl Kennamer, NWTF senior vice
president of conservation programs. “They have compared the typically
recommended sandy loam soil, rocky Piedmont soil and a sandy soil from
the Aiken, S.C., area, and found successful chufa production on almost
any soil type.”
Fertilization and proper soil
pH is very important for maximizing chufa production. Researchers found
plots that received liquid fertilizer produced more and larger tubers
as compared to plots that were not fertilized. Chufa is a
nitrogen-loving plant. Applying the recommended amounts of fertilizer
to soils with a pH between 6 and 7 will maximize nut production. In
addition to fertilizer, the NWTF recommends using DeltAg’s Seed Coat, Soil Solution and Plant Power. These products will allow chufa to maximize nut production.
Researchers also found that delayed planting of chufa after fertilizing
reduced chufa growth and gave competing weeds a head start. Like other
plants, weeds compete with chufa for water, nutrients, and sunlight. If
weeds are not controlled, your chufa plants will eventually lose the
the research was conducted, there were several date recommendations for
planting. Researchers compared the NWTF’s Turkey Gold® Chufa — a
Spanish-grown chufa — to a domestic variety to determine which dates
and conditions best supported chufa growth.
to the research, the NWTF’s brand of chufa emerged faster at cooler
temperatures when compared to the domestic variety. When the chufa grew
at temperatures exceeding 86 degrees Fahrenheit, regardless of variety
type, the tubers were often attacked by fungus and bacteria, which
“Selecting the right time
to plant is critical,” Kennamer says. “Chufa needs adequate moisture
availability first and foremost. Although chufa has a broad planting
window in the Southeast, it’s best to neither plant too early in the
spring nor wait until daytime temperatures reach the 90s.”
turkey enthusiasts throughout the U.S. grow chufa, the NWTF selected a
variety that would germinate well at cooler temperatures to compensate
for the narrow planting window in the northern U.S. while still
allowing landowners in the Southeast to plant chufa right after turkey
season when the plants will have enough time to receive the rain they
need to grow.
Sprouting at lower temperatures
also could allow chufa to better compete against weeds. In the
Southeast, planting chufa immediately after the close of spring turkey
season is recommended. However, when planting brands of chufa other
than the Turkey Gold variety, waiting until later in the spring to
plant will produce better results.
One of the biggest mistakes landowners make is planting too much chufa.
While common planting rates are 50 pounds per acre when broadcast
seeding and 35 pounds per acre if drilling the seed, many landowners
misjudge the actual size of the plot, or feel that planting more seed
is better than not planting enough.
chufa can’t stand competition, even against itself,” Kennamer says. “If
you have any doubt about how much to plant, plant less.”
Planting chufa is one of the best ways to attract turkeys to your property.
Click image to download | Credit: NWTF
Planting inexpensive chufa is not necessarily the best way to save
money because less-expensive brands may be of lower quality and may not
produce as well as brands that cost slightly more. When purchasing
chufa, first check the germination tag. This tag is a legal requirement
for any seed sold in the U.S. The germination rate, seed purity and
test date all are listed on the tag.
some states, the percentage of dormant seed, or seed that does not
germinate immediately when sown, is also listed on the tag. Though
dormant seed is not dead, it still will not grow when planted. Dormant
seed rates can reach 45 percent in some varieties, so checking the tag
and purchasing a brand with fewer dormant seeds will be more cost
effective in the long run.
The test date is
another important piece of information listed on the germination tag.
By law, seed must be tested approximately every nine months, so make
sure the seed has an up-to-date tag. Stored properly in cool, dry
conditions, chufa will hold its germination fairly well from year to
year. However, germination rates will plummet if the seed is stored in
hot, humid conditions, or if the chufa gets wet during storage.
chufa part of your wildlife management plan is one of the best ways to
attract turkeys to your property. As the research shows, however, the
devil is in the details. Paying close attention to proper planting
methods, applying periodic maintenance to control weeds, and purchasing
quality seeds will increase the likelihood of a successful crop.
DeltAg products are available through the NWTF Turkey Shoppe at www.nwtf.org.