This is typically a busy time of the year as many producers are engaged in fall harvest, weaning, preg-checking and preparing for winter. With the grazing and haying seasons nearly over, one area that often doesn’t get enough fall attention is weed management in pastures and hay fields. However, there is still time to identify and eliminate weeds this fall. Here are four tips from Mark Landefeld, Ohio State University Extension educator.
1. Maintain a dense, healthy forage stand.
Through proper fertilization, cutting management, and insect control, producers can control weeds in established stands of alfalfa.
“More than 95% of the weeds can be controlled through good management practices,” Landefeld says. “However, weeds can cause problems. Some alfalfa stands have been reported to lose up to 30% of the stand from infestations of common chickweed. If chickweed emerges through the fall and into spring, it develops a thick, lush mat that competes strongly with the alfalfa until first-cutting hay is made. Purple deadnettle and henbit can cause the same problem. If these weeds persist and then die, summer annual weeds like foxtails, lambsquarter, pigweed or others often take over. Perennial weeds such as dandelion or Canada thistle can also creep into portions of the growing area to reduce yields and/or quality even further.”
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2. Consider the costs of herbicides vs. reseeding.
Herbicides can be used to eliminate weeds in hay fields, but there are some considerations for selecting the right formulation.
“Before using herbicides, one should evaluate the existing stand to be sure it is worth the cost of the herbicide and the expense to apply the treatment,” advises Landefeld. “Reseeding may be more cost effective. When weeds invade mixed legume/grass stands, it poses a little different problem than pure stands because herbicide management strategies are limited that remove broadleaf weeds without killing your legumes.”
Landefeld says grazing and harvest management can be extremely beneficial in weed control, if they are cut down before the weeds are allowed to mature and produce seed heads.
3. Invest in soil fertility.
“Good soil fertility and maintaining a soil pH of 6.5-7 helps forage plants vigorously compete against weeds,” says Landefeld. “Spending money to provide good fertility may be the best and most cost-effective means to reduce weed pressure in mixed grass/legume stands.”
4. Identify invaders to eliminate weeds next spring.
Weeds can quickly take over a pasture, and fall is a good time to be proactive and identify the invasive weeds before the spring grazing season rolls around. Knowing what type of weeds are impacting the pasture is crucial to properly controlling them.
“By identifying target weeds, the proper herbicide(s) may be chosen,” he says. “Fall can be a good time to eliminate hard-to-control perennial weeds. Proper recognition and prompt action to control these invaders is important. Eliminating weeds while they are small and few in number will save you a lot of headaches later. So, be aware, monitor your fields regularly, identify weeds in your hay and pasture fields and deal with them in a timely manner. And, always read and follow the manufacturer's label when applying any type of pesticide.”
Click here to read more of Landefeld’s recommendations and watch two videos on identifying weeds in your pasture and hayfields.
Do you worry about weed control in the fall, or does pasture and hay field health take a backseat to bigger concerns like weaning and harvest? Share your strategy for managing weeds in the comments section below.
The opinions of Amanda Radke are not necessarily those of Beefmagazine.com or the Penton Farm Progress Group.
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