Document Type

Field Crop Insects, Pests & Diseases - General Information

Publication Date



White-tailed deer are the number one source of crop depredation in Tennessee. Once in peril of extermination, the white-tailed deer population in Tennessee now approaches one million. The number one field crop for depredation is soybeans; however, other crops, gardens, tree plantings and ornamentals shrubs and flowers are damaged also.

Deer damage soybeans by browsing, trampling and bedding, and indirectly by increasing weed competition. Deer feed on soybeans from the seedling stage through harvest. Browsing of seedlings is most destructive, as one bite can kill a plant if the cotyledons (the first pair of leaves on a soybean seedling) are eaten. Browsing on older plants also can cause yield reductions. Trampling and bedding associated with browsing can have a major affect on yield. As deer travel and bed throughout fields, plants are broken and mashed to the ground, making them unavailable to the combine. Weeds become a problem as an indirect result of browsing. Soybeans typically form a canopy following final herbicide application; however, browsed soybeans may leave gaps in the canopy. These gaps allow weeds to establish, which compete with the soybeans, reduce combine efficiency and increase weed seed in the seed bank. Similar damage may occur in other crops, while damage to ornamentals is usually limited to browsing.

Deer damage is not spread evenly across Tennessee, or across any given portion of the state. Even in areas where deer numbers are high, soybeans at some locations receive little damage, while those at other locations are destroyed. Fields most likely to suffer severe damage are small (<10 acres), partially or totally surrounded by woods and located away from roads and other human activity. Gardens and ornamentals in isolated areas are most likely to be damaged; however, damage also occurs in many suburban and urban areas.

Publication Number

SP598-2M-4/02 E12-4915-00-020-02

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