Watch for Weeds Hitchhiking in Hay

December 7, 2011 09:57 AM
Watch for Weeds Hitchhiking in Hay

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

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."

Back to news



Spell Check

No comments have been posted to this News Article

Corn College TV Education Series


Get nearly 8 hours of educational video with Farm Journal's top agronomists. Produced in the field and neatly organized by topic, from spring prep to post-harvest. Order now!


Market Data provided by
Brought to you by Beyer