In pastures, weed identification is crucial

In Southwest Farm Press

by Adam Russell, Texas A&M AgriLife

Range and pasture weed control is an annual battle, and it intensifies as spring transitions to summer.

Cool-season weeds have fully matured, and warm-season weeds are emerging amid wet spring conditions and creating problems for some forage producers, said Dr. Vanessa Corriher-Olson, AgriLife Extension forage specialist, Overton.

The wet weather in East Texas and other parts of the state is also preventing producers from entering fields with equipment to fight unwanted plants, she said. Bermuda grass is starting to grow, but recent cooler temperatures have slowed its progress in some areas and provided growth opportunity for weeds.

These weeds compete with forages like Bahiagrass and Bermuda grass for moisture and nutrients from fertilizer, she said. Their presence can also reduce forage quality. Some weeds are toxic to livestock.

Corriher-Olson said the best way to beat back weeds is to promote forage growth. It starts with balanced soil pH, and fertilizing according to soil analysis and the nutrient needs of desired forages.

Herbicides are an effective option for weed control when applied correctly, she said. Identifying the weed is the most important consideration when selecting herbicides.

Plant type determines the most effective control approach, she said. Verifying if the weed is a perennial or annual plant and deciding the most effective time to spray are critical to successful application.

“A wide variety of herbicides are available for pastures and hay meadows,” she said. “It can be hard to make a decision, but once we’ve identified the plant we can find the best recommendations.”

The plant varieties in Texas are so vast, Corriher-Olson said, that even knowledgeable forage producers have identification questions. She said photographs or fresh plant samples can help AgriLife Extension agents and specialists determine what landowners are dealing with.

Mowing can reduce the presence of unwanted plants, but it’s not the most economical or effective control method. It takes several cuts throughout the year to control or eliminate weeds by mowing. Mowing also clips the forages with each cutting.

Corriher-Olson said several excellent weed control websites are available online, including AgriLife Extension and Texas A&M AgriLife Research publications, and books that help identify weeds found in Texas. “Toxic Plants of Texas,” “Brush and Weeds of Texas Rangelands” and “Know Your Grasses” are all available on the AgriLife Bookstore website at www.agrilifebookstore.org.

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