Ways to stay ahead of weeds before it’s too late

Ready or not it’s time to get to work to ward off weeds in pastures before they get out of control. And unfortunately, producers may have more issues with weeds this season than in years past. “Healthy and competitive forage is the first defense against weeds, and the drought really set forages back last year, which could have been compounded by grazing pressure through the winter,” Hannah Wright-Smith, weed specialist with the University of Arkansas, explained. “So, we will likely see more weeds this year since there is more open ground where the forage isn’t filled in well.”

 In addition, weed specialists predict farmers will likely see weeds emerge and start growing before forages have time to make a solid stand this spring, which could make for a long weed control season. However, there are steps producers can take now to keep weeds from taking over their fields.

Start Now: Weed specialists suggest producers start to scout for weeds early and then quickly implement strategies to control them. Additionally, experts recommend devoting part of the farm budget to pay for one herbicide application or fertility this year. “I recommend investing in one herbicide application using a preemergence (PRE) herbicide to prevent weeds from emerging, if possible,” Wright-Smith said. “Pendimethalin (Prowl H2O, Satellite HydroCap) and indaziflam (Rezilon) are effective against many weeds and will provide several weeks of protection against weeds.”

It’s best to spray weeds early, ideally when the weeds are less than a foot tall. Even if there are strips of weeds coming up in pastures where producers fed lower-quality hay this season, those areas can be treated the same as the weeds in the other parts of their fields. “Weeds can easily infest and take over, but unless there is a really aggressive weed that was introduced by the hay, producers can manage these strips the same as the rest of their field,” Wright-Smith stated. “Keep in mind that it will probably take two or more herbicide applications to carry you through the summer.”

If the weeds aren’t controlled by the herbicide spray, then the weeds should be mowed in order to keep them from going to seed. The weeds should be mowed just before or right after the seed head forms. 

Calibrate Sprayer: Before producers spend the time and money to spray herbicides its beneficial to get the sprayer calibrated. County agents as well as online resources can help producers determine the best way to calibrate their boom and boomless sprayers. When the sprayer is calibrated, it ensures producers are applying the right amount of product. Otherwise, producers maybe be wasting money by over-applying or under-applying the herbicides. 

Test Soil: Though it may not be something producers would typically consider as necessary for weed prevention, weed specialists recommend starting the process with a soil test. “Fertility is often overlooked in pastures, but with every hay cutting or grazing, nutrients are removed and must be replaced. And no, cow patties do not count,” Wright-Smith said. “The best defense is a good offense and that starts with giving your forage what it needs to be healthy and competitive.” 


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