AUBURN, Ala. – Persistent drought conditions continue to make life hard for the state’s livestock producers. Many producers’ pastures and hayfields are stressed, giving weeds an opportunity to take over.
When forages are not available, livestock are tempted to eat weeds which can cause health problems. An Alabama Extension weed scientist said it is crucial that producers know how to manage weeds in their pastures.
Dr. Joyce Tredaway said weeds are usually less of a nuisance in ideal conditions.
“Weeds are usually not an issue when perennial forages, such as tall fescue, bahiagrass and bermudagrass, are growing in ideal conditions because of the dense cover they form,” said Tredaway. “Weed infestations are usually caused by low nutrient levels, improper soil pH, insect infestations, disease and overgrazing.”
Managing Weeds During Drought
Once weeds are established and drought conditions develop, many management options are no longer available or may not be successful.
Tredaway said producers need to keep several things in mind when managing weeds.
“Weeds under drought stress develop a thick, waxy cuticle to help conserve water which reduces herbicide absorption,” said Tredaway. “Weeds under drought stress are generally not actively growing. So, you may see control significantly reduced.”
Tredaway said that the first step to managing weeds is to know what weed you are dealing with.
“Producers should accurately identify the weed they are trying to control. It is crucial to choose the correct herbicide,” said Tredaway. “Using a contact herbicide may be your best option. Drought stressed plants do not translocate well so using a systemic herbicide may be useless. The most important thing is to get an adequate coverage.”
Recovery After a Drought
After drought conditions have eased, pasture or field recovery depends on several factors.
“After a drought, producers should survey their fields,” said Tredaway. “When doing this, it is important to keep a few questions in mind.”
“Do you have a lot of open spaces in your pasture or hayfield? Are open spaces filled in by winter annuals? What does your forage stand look like?”
Tredaway also said that producers should do soil test and get the pH and fertility levels correct in the pasture or fields.
“Soil tests tell you the pH of the soil and nutrient levels,” said Tredaway. “A field’s pH should register between 6.3 – 6.7. If needed, apply lime at least 6 months prior to grass green-up. Fertility must be right in order for forages to grow at their maximum capacity.”