Current drought conditions have left many Alabama cattle producers scrambling to find hay as pastures dry up. This hay will likely be coming from areas that have received ample amounts of rain. Unfortunately, moving hay may also lead to spreading cogongrass.
Cogongrass is a very aggressive, invasive perennial grass that is native to Japan. It was likely brought into Alabama through packing materials in the early 1900s, and is now designated as the world’s seventh worst weed. In natural habitats, it will outcompete native plants and eventually create a continuous “sea” of cogongrass. The grass is highly flammable, and can create a fire hazard that can damage pine plantations, and even property. It will invade pastures, row crops, right-of-ways, and open forests.
One of the first steps to preventing the spread of cogongrass is learning what it looks like. It will often grow in dense circular shaped mats, and reaches heights of around 4 feet. It has very short stems, and long, finely serrated leaves. Finally, in the late spring and early summer cogongrass has a fluffy white seed head. Each of these seed heads contain as many as 3,000 seeds. Finally, the plant has long, white rhizomes.
Cogongrass is often spread by inadvertently spreading the seeds and rhizomes. These seeds will stick to trucks, tractors, clothing, and boots. The rhizomes can also be transported through tractor implements and tires. Remember to clean all equipment if you suspect that cogongrass may be present. Early detection of cogongrass makes controlling the invasive plant much easier.
By: Spenser Bradley, Regional Forestry, Wildlife and Natural Resources Agent