Ruth Correll: Take steps to reduce broomsedge in pastures

Ruth Correll • Oct 16, 2018 at 3:23 PM

Broomsedge is conspicuous this time of year. Its tall, golden stems are the most noticeable feature in many fields. Broomsedge is considered an “indicator plant.” 

Broomsedge thrives in conditions that are considered poor for most desirable cool season grass species either due to low fertility and/or poor grass management as in overgrazing.

Broomsedge is a forage species because livestock will graze green, young growth. However, as the growing season continues, the grass produces tall stems and seed heads and becomes unpalatable to livestock. 

Broomsedge is a native grass and grows well in acidic soils with low levels of nutrients. It is also tolerant of drought conditions. These characteristics help to make it very persistent once it is established. This persistence also makes broomsedge difficult to get rid of once it is established.

There are no herbicides that will control broomsedge without also killing the surrounding desirable grass species. Mowing does not provide effective control of broomsedge. An “ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” applies to broomsedge, which means efforts to prevent broomsedge are much more productive than efforts to control it. Broomsedge is not competitive with our more desirable cool-season forage grass species as long as conditions are favorable for the desirable species. 

What is important to keep desirable forage species more competitive? Four primary things are to: 

• have your soil tested.

• maintain proper soil pH levels. 

• apply fertilizer at the recommended rates and intervals.

• use multiple pasture rotation to prevent overgrazing

When these steps are not taken, conditions favor the growth of broomsedge, which allows it to be more competitive with the more desirable species. These conditions, combined with a thin stand of desirable grass, allow broomsedge seeds to find bare soil and establish and spread rapidly.

Once broomsedge is established, control options are limited. If only small amounts of broomsedge are present, spot spraying with glyphosate may be an option. But spraying will also kill the surrounding desirable grasses. This results in bare soil, which could lead to new weed problems or re-infestation by broomsedge if soil conditions weren’t corrected.  Complete pasture renovation may be required for serious infestations.

The steps to long-term control of broomsedge are the same as preventing it. Taking care of your pastures by improving the growing conditions for the desirable grasses will help them out compete the broomsedge, but it may take several growing seasons to do so. After efforts are made to improve soil fertility, steps may be taken to reduce the vigor of the existing broomsedge. Regular grazing early in the growing season can help suppress broomsedge, but controlled grazing will probably be necessary to make sure the young broomsedge is used. 

For more information, contact the UT-TSU Extension Office in Wilson County at 615-444-9584. You can also find us on Facebook or visit extension.tennessee.edu/wilson. Ruth Correll, UT Extension-TSU Cooperative Extension agent in Wilson County, may be reached at 615-444-9584 or acorrell@utk.edu.

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