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Do you have Broomsedge in your Pastures?

The difference between improper pasture fertility (left) and proper pasture fertility (right)

There is one specific grass species that tends to be an eye sore in pastures in pastures during this time of the year. That species would be broomsedge. The tall orange-brown stems stand in contrast to the lower growing dormant Bermuda or tall fescue. Livestock won’t eat it when mature, as it has little to no nutritive value. It is essentially just taking up space, sunlight, nutrients, and water that could be used by desirable forage grasses now and in the future thus controlling it is necessary. The question is, how?

First off it is important to understand that broomsedge is an indicator plant, meaning it is a symptom of a larger problem. That problem is typically poor fertility. Usually, broomsedge thrives in areas where soils are deficient in one or more nutrients or where the soil is so acidic (low in pH) that nutrients are tied up and can’t be used by the plant.

Many folks will say that broomsedge means the soil needs liming. That statement is true more often than not as lime is added to lower the acidity of the soil and make nutrients more available. However, since the problem could also be related to the soil being deficient one or more nutrients to begin with, a soil test should be taken prior to lime applying lime or fertilizer. I always say “if you don’t test it’s just a guess.” Come by and pick up some soil test bags here at the extension office or feel free to give me a call and I will be happy to help you take a sample. Unfortunately, applying lime or fertilizer doesn’t mean that broomsedge will not be an issue again in the future. But correcting soil fertility issues creates an environment that is more favorable to desirable grasses such as tall fescue and Bermuda.

Liming increases the soil pH and promotes an environment for desirable forage species to thrive.

Herbicides are not a great option in controlling broomsedge since there are no labeled products that will kill the broomsedge without killing the desired forage grasses. A selective application or spot spraying of glyphosate that targets the broomsedge in its early stages but is not applied to the desirable forages, may be an option for heavy infestations. However, if you spray without treating the cause of the problem (low fertility), you are treating the symptom and not the disease and the broomsedge or other weeds will come back.

It’s important to understand that fields don’t normally become heavily infested overnight and won’t be cured overnight. It can take 4-5 years for broomsedge to be eliminated through proper fertilization based on soil tests. Patience is required, but changes to fertility and grazing management will eventually be rewarded by a better stand of forage and a decrease of broomsedge and other weeds in the future.