- Get Broomsedge Out of Your Pasture and Hay Land
- Broomsedge Infestations are Highly Visible in Fall Pastures
- Pasture Soil Fertility Essential to Prevent Broomsedge Infestations
- Broomsedge in Pastures
- Reasons for Encroachment
- Historical Precedent
- Management Options
- Broomsedge Control: How To Get Rid of Broomsedge
- Key Takeaways
Get Broomsedge Out of Your Pasture and Hay Land
Broomsedge is known as poverty grass, Shelton says, because even the cows don’t like to eat it. It has so little value that it’s not worth their time in consuming it.
Very low phosphorus levels in pastures or hay fields often allow broomsedge to get the upper hand, he says. Thinner, more eroded soils often devoted to grass or hay land are prime suspects. The pH is often lower with low calcium, making conditions favorable for broomsedge development.
Lousy feed: Broomsedge grows well in late season, but it’s a lousy feed. Manage it by clipping it now and fertilizing to promote cool-season grasses.
Related: Jumpstart Pasture Grass Growth With Control Burn
If you have it at full height now from last fall, consider clipping it down so it doesn’t block sunlight form the new grass growth underneath it. Mow it and then fertilize the pasture or hay field according to soil test results, and you can shift the advantage toward cool-season grasses, Shelton says. The other reason broomsedge does well later in the season is it is a warm-season perennial – just not a grass with no value for feeding.
A better look at broomsedge
“It’s all about competition,” Shelton says. “If you can manage the field for growth of early-season grasses, the cool season species will compete and crowd out the broomsedge.”
Related: Science Finally Measuring Values From Good Grazing Management
Once broomsedge begins to grow back later in the summer, as warmer temperatures favor it, you can graze it back without removing too much of the desired species, he says. This will put pressure and stress on the supporting roots of the poor grass and give more advantage to the desired species that you want in your pasture or hay field.
Don’t expect to remove it all in one season. However, if you don’t take action it will take over, Shelton concludes.
I never tried to kill down a broomsedge field. However, I think I would have the same concern that you do – trying to make sure it gets killed. A couple of thoughts:
a) if you have the luxury, consider killing it this spring, letting it lay dead; killing it again later in the summer, if you see more broomsedge coming thru. Wait until fall or next spring to seed your orchardgrass, to make sure you have the broomsedge cleaned up.
b) another idea would be to kill it this spring, and plant an annual crop – say, sudangrass. Make hay off the sudangrass this summer, or graze it. Kill it again in the fall, and start a new orchardgrass stand next spring.
c) you could also do something similar by seeding clover. that would allow you the ability to use a post-grass herbicide such as Select to take out any grasses you see, while keeping the clover. One of the concerns I have here is whether your soil pH is adequate to start a clover stand.
d) last idea would be to just wait until the broomsedge greens up, then kill it down with glyphosate, and plant your orchardgrass. You may not get all the broomsedge cleaned out; however, I believe broomsedge is not very competitive, and so, this might work. If you can live with some broomsedge in your hay, this might be a tolerable option.
My preference would be a), b) or c) if you can make them work in your system.
I often get calls and/or questions about Broomsedge this time of year. Not because it is already growing, but because it is quite noticeable being an orange-brown, “stick out like a sore thumb” kind of grass amongst contrasting new green growth! Broomsedge (Andropogon virginicus) is often called poverty grass. If you dared to take a bite of it, you might understand why livestock don’t like to eat it, especially when it is mature. It is just poor quality. At best, it is about half the quality of desired forages. Paraphrasing William Albrecht (who linked soil health to human health) the plant doesn’t have enough value for a cow to trouble herself eating it. That is a pretty true statement with a couple exceptions. Cattle will sometimes consume a little of that mature Broomsedge along with very high protein watery forage in the early spring to help balance out their rumen. We can overcome this issue with other means. They will also consume it fairly well prior to early boot (seed stem elongation), but it is still far from being choice feed.
Broomsedge generally gets the upper hand in the pasture because of very low phosphorus or available phosphorus levels. It also tends to be worse on thinner, more eroded soils and for a good reason. Low pH combined with low calcium is a better environment for this warm season perennial than any of our cool-season forages and thin eroded soils that are usually more acidic. Low pH aggravates the phosphorus issue even more by tying up even more phosphorus. You can quickly guess the best way to combat Broomsedge…fix fertility deficiencies, especially phosphorus and calcium. Fixing fertility is the first place to start to win the battle over this obtrusive species.
If the Broomsedge present is at full mature height and dense, it would be most favorable to mow or clip it down close to keep it from blocking sunlight from the species we want to grow. Assuming we have good species present, mature Broomsedge can block sunlight from reaching the desired forage species and allow it to keep maintaining the upper hand. If you remove it and then fertilize the cool-season desired forages, you shift the advantage to the cool-seasons. With some management, and the help of cooler soils and earlier plant growth, cool-seasons will compete with the Broomsedge to help crowd it out. It is all about competition. When livestock eat one species more frequently than the other, they give the competing species the upper hand. We have to shift this back the other direction.
Once the cool-season forages have successfully captured the majority of the solar energy and have grown back to an adequate grazing height (generally 10-12 inches), the Broomsedge will start trying to grow too, especially with warmer soils which it likes. Grazing the Broomsedge in this early stage, but not removing too much of the desired species, helps put extra stress on the supporting roots of this poor grass and gives more advantage to the desired species. You won’t remove it all at once, but you are heading in the right direction. Manure can also be very useful in reducing its foot hold as a means of adding some needed fertility.
Increasing fertility can come in different forms. Feeding hay a portion of the winter in these problem areas can add fertility to the site and increase organic matter – this can be a good fix. Hay would ideally be put in place ahead of use and then best utilized under dry or frozen conditions. Only one bale feeding per spot is best. Too much leftover forage will add additional organic matter and nutrients, but will also slow recovery of the desired forage species. It is surprising how quickly some of those areas can heal.
The picture to the right was taken on a small cattle operation. The producer was allocating out forages in small blocks. This site had a fairly dense stand of Broomsedge present with Tall Fescue and a little clover. He did a great job in maintaining cover and grazing the Broomsedge in the whole area except one last block which did not get grazed the last time around. Notice the difference that one timely missed grazing made.
It is amazing what a difference good cover and fertility makes when it comes to weed control. Most weeds are opportunists, just waiting for the right condition and situation.
Broomsedge Infestations are Highly Visible in Fall Pastures
By: Michael Goodchild, University of Florida Extension
It is common place now to see maturing broomsedge in our pasture and hayfields. Broomsedge bluestem (Andropogon virginicus) is not really a sedge at all, but a native grass. It seems to shoot up overnight after being inconspicuous for most of the growing season. This clump-forming, native warm season grass turns golden brown in the fall with numerous white seed heads that are easily dispersed by the wind. The bad news is the nutritive value as livestock forage is very low which makes our pastures less productive when the broom-sedge component increases. Low fertility soils and over-grazing leads to the encroachment of broomsedge. The presence of this grass is an indicator of low pH and low phosphorus, and to some degree low potassium (potash) in your soils. It is always wise to test your soil to confirm these deficiencies.
The majority of pasture herbicides are not effective in controlling broomsedge, without killing your desired pasture grasses. Control of broomsedge in established pastures requires using weed wiper equipment or spot treatment with glyphosate herbicides. In late summer broomsedge will begin to tower above other grasses allowing for selective control using a wicking device. Herbicides will be most effective on healthy, actively growing plants, so avoid application during periods of extended drought, and after maturity with seed head formation. This is the time of year to make note of the most serious infestations for treatment in the years ahead.
Of course as the name applies you can make brooms from the broomsedge to sell and subsidize the income lost from your pastures caused by this grass. But, on a more serious note, broom-sedge does provide nesting areas for turkey and quail in forested areas. Small birds also utilize the seeds in the dormant, winter months when other seed is unavailable.
For more information:
- Broomsedge Bluestem
- Pasture Soil Fertility Essential to Prevent Broomsedge Infestations
- Weed Management in Pastures and Rangeland
Pasture Soil Fertility Essential to Prevent Broomsedge Infestations
Broomsedge bluestem goes by many common names; broom grass, broom sage, sage brush, etc. No matter the name it is a sign of poor soil fertility.
Broomsedge bluestem, or Andropogon virginicus L. is quite conspicuous this time of year. Its tall stems are the most noticeable feature in many fields. While these tall stems blowing in the wind may look nice, what they represent in terms of soil fertility is anything but that. Broomsedge thrives in conditions that are considered poor for most desirable grass species.
Some consider broomsedge bluestem a forage species because livestock will graze green, young growth. However, as the growing season continues the grass produces its signature tall stems and seed heads, and becomes very unpalatable to livestock. That is why most producers consider it a weedy grass when it is found in improved pastures.
Broomsedge bluestem is a native grass, and as such it is quite hardy in relation to environmental factors. Broomsedge grows well in acidic soils with low levels of nutrients. It is also rather tolerant of drought conditions. These factors help to make it very persistent once it is established in a given area. This persistence is a source of frustration for pasture managers because broomsedge is difficult to get rid of once it is established.
- There are no herbicides on the market that will control broomsedge without also killing the surrounding desirable grass species (bahia, bermuda, etc.)
- Mowing does not provide effective control of broomsedge
- Burning has little to no negative effect on broomsedge
Efforts to prevent broomsedge bluestem are much more productive than efforts to control it. Broomsedge is not competitive with improved forage grass species, if conditions are favorable for the improved species. From a management standpoint this means;
- Maintain proper soil pH levels (5.5 for bahia and bermuda)
- Apply fertilizer at the recommended rates and intervals (UF/IFAS fertilizer recommendations)
- Utilize multiple pasture rotation to prevent overgrazing
Preventing broomsedge is preferred to trying to control it after it is established. Chemical control options are very limited. There are products on the market labeled for the control of “broom weed;” these will not be effective. Broom weed is an entirely different plant.
When the steps above are not taken, conditions are created that favor the growth of broomsedge allowing it to become competitive with desirable species. These conditions combined with a thin stand of desirable grass allow broomsedge seeds to find bare soil and establish/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. While glyphosate is effective, if applied to actively growing broomsedge, it will also kill the surrounding desirable grasses. This ultimately results in bare soil, which could lead to new weed problems or re-infestation by broomsedge if soil conditions have not been corrected. Complete pasture renovation may be required for serious infestations, which could include rotation to row crops for a year or two, followed by replanting of desirable grass species.
The steps to achieving long term control of broomsedge are the same as preventing it; take care of your pastures. Improving the growing conditions for desirable grasses will help them out compete the broomsedge, but it may take several growing seasons to do so. After efforts have been 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. This practice is more effective in areas where broomsedge is well established and livestock have little choice but to graze the broomsedge.
Contact your county extension agent for more information on broomsedge bluestem, and other steps you can take to improve your pastures and hayfields.
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I am the Agriculture and Natural Resources agent in Washington County. My program areas include livestock and forage, row crops, and pond management.
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Broomsedge in Pastures
Broomsedge, which is actually a native grass and not a sedge, has become more prevalent in many pastures in the eastern United States in recent years. This is undesirable, because this plant provides relatively little nutritional value to livestock. Even worse, it competes with desirable plants for nutrients, water, sunlight, and space.
Reasons for Encroachment
It is commonly believed that the soil in any area infested with broomsedge is low in fertility and/or has a low pH. While this usually is the case, it is not always so. Broomsedge establishment and persistence are also greatly affected by defoliation intensity (the frequency and closeness of grazing and/or clipping), of which this plant not highly tolerant.
Livestock will consume immature growth of this weedy grass, but it becomes increasingly unpalatable as it matures. Eventually it becomes so fibrous that animals will refuse it under almost any circumstance. This characteristic allows it to most easily become established when pastures are undergrazed in spring and early summer but grazed closely thereafter.
When this happens, young broomsedge plants (which would have been weakened by grazing and had more immature leaf growth if spring and early summer stocking rate had been higher) can reach the stage of growth at which they become highly unpalatable. This results in increased grazing pressure on improved forages in the pasture and no grazing pressure on broomsedge, which is an enormous competitive advantage for the latter.
Work done at the Middle Tennessee Experiment Station in the 1920’s provided much insight regarding broomsedge. In a test at this location, application of 200 pounds/acre of nitrate of soda or 150 pounds/acre of ammonium sulfate, together with grazing and two or three clippings annually reduced broomsedge stands from 90% ground cover to less than 5% in four years.
These experimental results were corroborated by observations of the effects of grazing and fertilization on some 400 acres of permanent pasture on the station. Pastures that were kept grazed closely in spring and early summer for several straight years had little broomsedge remaining, while in other pastures where lax grazing had occurred, populations increased despite good fertilization.
Slection and use of well-adapted, vigorous forage species and varieties is helpful in keeping broomsedge from becoming established in the first place. Once a good stand of forage crops has been obtained, regular soil testing followed by application of any recommended fertilizer and lime will, in most cases, keep broomsedge out.
Where a pasture has been invaded by this grass, taking a soil test to determine the soil nutrient and pH status should be the first step. As evidenced in the Tennessee work discussed earlier, doing nothing other than proper liming and fertilization of a pasture will likely reduce a broomsedge population, although it may be a slow process.
As shown by the Tennessee work, the other management tool is to intensify grazing and/or clipping management. In particular, a “spring undergrazing-summer overgrazing” situation should be avoided. The greater extent to which pastures are grazed and/or clipped without damaging defoliation tolerance limits of improved forages, the more difficult it is for broomsedge plants to be competitive.
No herbicides are labeled for selective removal of broomsedge from pastures, but spot spraying or roller bar application of a non-selective herbicide can be helpful in some situations. However, the key to broomsedge control is management that ensures desirable forage plants have a competitive advantage.
Foraging Ahead is a column presented by Ragan and Massey and written by Dr. Don Ball, Professor Emeritus at Auburn University. Dr. Ball is one of the authors of Southern Forages, available here.
Broomsedge Control: How To Get Rid of Broomsedge
Broomsedge (Andropogon virginicus) is a perennial native weed. Despite its name, Broomsedge is not actually a sedge, rather, it’s a grass. When mature, it is brown and dry compared to bluish-green when young. Its name comes from the fact that in the past when Broomsedge reached it’s reproductive stage, it produced a golden stem that was often cut, bound and used as a broom.
Broomsedge thrives in grazed areas that have not been given enough care and maintenance. This allows Broomsedge to quickly take over because grazing animals tend to avoid the grassy weed. On pastures, Broomsedge is known by the nickname “poverty grass” because it’s of low-quality and lack of nutritional value. Livestock hate to eat it. Where ever Broomsedge has been established, grazing animals turn their attention to the more desired vegetation in the area and after depleting those sources, Broomsedge is left to thrive and survive in the environment.
Broomsedge that is growing on lawns are much easier to control than in pastures and the best way to do so on lawns is through cultural methods which allow the turfgrass to become thick and nutrient-rich, thus aiding in Broomsedge control by choking it out of the landscape.
Our DIY Broomsedge treatment guide will show you exactly how to best get rid broomsedge from your property. Follow the step-by-step instructions below using the recommended herbicides to the right and you’re guaranteed a successful removal of Broomsedge.
Broomsedge is a perennial grass that has a clumping habit and grows in pastures, grazelands, and areas that are poorly maintained. The grassy weed often flies under the radar until it reaches maturity, going from green to reddish-brown bunches of broom-like leaves from which it receives its common name. Broomsedge is most easily identified via its unique flattened leaves, hairy spikelets and stems that turn reddish-brown as they age.
Use the description and the image above to confirm whether you are dealing with broomsedge. If you’re unsure or can’t quite determine exactly which kind of weed you are encountering in your yard, contact us and we will help ID the weed for you. We recommend taking a high-resolution photo of the unwanted weed with your phone and shooting it over to our email address. We will respond back to you quickly with not only the correct ID of the plant, but we will also give you expert recommendations of products and techniques to apply to remove that weed from your lawn.
Where to Inspect
Broomsedge typically grows on loose, sandy, moist soils in ranges and pastures as well as uplands and woodlands. Habitats include prairie lands, savannahs, rocky glades, sandy or gravelly areas along railroads, abandoned sandy fields, open areas of parks, mined land, and barren waste areas. Broomsedge tends to thrive in open areas with infertile soil that has been subjected to a history of disturbance or stress, whether from occasional wildfires, grazing, or other causes.
Broomsedge on a pasture or landscape is an indicator that the land has been overgrazed or neglected or both.
What To Look For
Broomsedge sticks out like a sore thumb on ranges as it looks like grass but is distinguished by its ugly orangish-brown color.
Once you have determined how severe of a problem you have (a minor issue or majorly taking over the entire landscape) you will then know where to focus your chemical herbicide applications.
Please be sure that when handling any type of herbicide, you are properly protecting your skin and eyes with safety equipment. Wear protective eyewear, gloves and long-sleeved clothing.
Broomsedge is best removed manually but if you have a large infestation of Broomsedge you are dealing with, you may not have the time or the energy to be pulling or cutting down all the Broomsedge. This is when chemical control would be best. Unfortunately, there are no selective herbicides that can successfully treat Broomsedge so you will have to use non-selective Glyphosate and be careful when spot treating so you don’t get the chemical on your desired grasses.
Step 1 – Spot Treat With Eraser
Eraser contains 41% Glyphosate as an active ingredient and works systemically through the foliage down to the root killing the entire plant within days. Keep in mind that Eraser is a non-selective herbicide and thus is a kill-all treatment. Use Eraser as a spot treatment and be careful not to get the chemical on any of your desired vegetation. An indicator dye like Vision Pro Max mixed with the spray application will aid you in keeping track of where you spray so you don’t accidentally spray on your desired grass.
Measure the square footage of the treatment area to determine how much Eraser you need. For spot treatments, 2.5 oz. of Eraser in a gallon of water can treat 300 sq. ft. Mix the appropriate amount of Eraser into your sprayer with Vision Pro Max indicator dye (at a rate of 6 to 10 fl. oz. per 100 gallons of spray solution) to help you keep track of where you spray. Agitate the sprayer and you are ready to spray.
With a fan tip nozzle, spot spray the Broomsedge to ensure it is evenly coated. You may need to do repeat applications after 7 to 10 days if the weed is particularly persistent and problematic.
Eraser is a non-selective herbicide and will kill whatever you spray so you must be very careful when applying Eraser if Broomsedge is near your desired grass. In some cases, it may be better to paint the product on the Signalgrass with a brush or block the desired grass with a piece of cardboard.
A lush and healthy lawn is less prone to invasion by the Broomsedge plant. Broomsedge grass grows best in poor soil and disperses an allelopathic chemical that keeps wanted plants from growing. Properly fertilize your landscape at the best time recommended for your particular grass. Mow your grass regularly and at the right height. Broomsedge thrives on sunlight so keeping a lush lawn shades out weed seeds which hinders the growth of the weed. Reseed thin patches of turf in the lawn as an effective means of Broomsedge control.
Since effective Broomsedge control includes proper fertilization, take a soil test to determine which nutrients are necessary for thick, healthy turfgrass on your lawn. Broomsedge does not grow well in landscapes that have high nitrogen in the soil.
- Broomsedge is a fast-growing perennial grass that is known to spread over agricultural sites, especially in the springtime.
- We recommend using Eraser (non-selective Glyphosate) to eliminate Broomsedge from your landscape.
- The best way to prevent Broomsedge on lawns is through cultural methods that allow the turfgrass to become thick and nutrient-rich, thus aiding in Broomsedge control by choking it out of the landscape.
Broomsedge (Andropogon virginicis L.) is a native warm-season grass that can dominate poorly managed pastures and hayfields. While it has little value as a forage, it does provide good nesting habitat for birds such as turkey and quail. However, as a forage crop it definitely falls short. When it is found in pastures and hayfields it is often an indication that something is not quite right. In most cases it is related low soil fertility and poor grazing management. Read on to discover some approaches to reduce broomsedge and promote desirable forages.
Soil test and adjust fertility. Many people say that broomsedge infested pastures need lime. This may be true in some cases, but I have found over the years that they are more commonly low in phosphorus. Soil testing is the only way to tell what amendments you need to apply.
Manage grazing and clipping to favor desirable forage species. In many cases, there are desirable forage species in broomsedge infested pastures. By adjusting soil fertility and managing grazing to favor these species we can make them more competitive. Normally these species are cool-season grasses. So not grazing them closely and frequently during the summer months will get them ready to grow in late summer and fall when temperature and moisture conditions are ideal.
Clip pastures in late summer or early fall. Clipping broomsedge in late summer or early fall once just before it produces seed can reduce shading of desirable forage species, making them more competitive in the stand.
Greg Brann discussing approaches to control broomsedge in improved pastures.
Apply nitrogen fertilizer in early fall. After we clip pastures in late summer, applying 60 lb N/A can stimulate desirable cool-season grasses helping to shift the botanical composition away from broomsedge.
Feed hay on broomsedge infested pastures. This is low input way of increasing soil fertility over time. Each ton of hay contains approximately 50 lb of nitrogen, 15 lbs of phosphorus, and 60 lbs of potassium. It is important to remember that although feeding hay does bring nutrients into a grazing system, it is a much slower way to build fertility than applying commercial fertilizer or broiler litter. Make sure to move feeding points around the pasture to get a more even nutrient distribution.
Burn broomsedge infested pastures. Not the best idea, because native warm-season grasses evolved under burning. This means that burning can actually enhance broomsedge stands.
Apply nitrogen in late spring or early summer and graze broomsedge. The idea is make the broomsedge more palatable and graze it during the summer months. The problem with this approach is that desirable forage species will tend to be overgrazed during the summer, putting them at a disadvantage. This approach may actually make your broomsedge problem worse over time.
Kill the existing the pasture with nonselective herbicide and reestablish it. Although this is viable approach to controlling broomsedge, without proper soil fertility and grazing management, the broomsedge will come back. In addition, this is by far the most time consuming and expensive approach.
Controlling broomsedge in pastures and hayfields will require a sustained effort of improving both soil fertility and grazing management. So make a plan, implement it, and over time you will see reduction broomsedge as your desirable forage species become more competitive.
To learn more about integrated weed control in pastures, contact your local extension office or visit the UK Weed Science Website .
~ Dr. Chris Teutsch, reprinted from Cow Country News