By Kay Ledbetter
Extreme weather conditions could sprout weed problems this spring
This spring, you may have a few surprises waiting in pastures, especially if you’ve had to bring in outside feed and hay to feed the herd this winter.
Barron Rector, Texas AgriLife Extension range specialist, says that after this year’s drought, wildfires and tons of imported hay, there may be a lot more weeds for landowners to deal with. Some could be invasive species or even toxic.
"The soundest way to control weeds is to prevent the invasion, which means we must understand the biology, limit the movement, understand the human behavior and actions that can cause the spread, and understand the pathways for its introduction," he says.
Some plants may be desirable in one location but a weed in another. "Our major problem with land management today is our inability to recognize an invasive plant species and deal with it accordingly," Rector says. "This sets up a potential problem because interstate commerce of hay is not regulated. There’s no one at the state line to inspect hay for foreign and invasive plants. Many landowners and livestock producers could be setting themselves up for weeds they’ve never seen and introduce potentially invasive plants."
Be ready. Rector says there are several things a landowner can do to prevent problems. "The first is to be aware of what invasive plants occur in the area you bought the hay," he says. "Know what they look like."
Each state has an invasive plant website or can be found on USDA’s Invasive and Noxious Weeds list at http://plants.usda.gov/java/noxiousDriver.
Then start scouting in March. "If it is a warm-season annual, it will be germinating then," Rector says. In general, annual weeds are treated with chemicals when they are 3" to 6" tall. It is important to know what the plant looks like in the seedling, rosette and early vegetative stages
because that is when the chemicals and management practices are the cheapest.
"By the time most weeds are flowering and setting seed, it is too late to use a chemical to control most annual plants," Rector says.
"Try to limit the areas where you feed hay and not spread it all over your ranch. And then continually go back and look at where you fed hay in future years," he says. "With continued drought, those seeds may sit in the soil for several years before they emerge."
- December 2011