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Helping pastures recover from extreme weather
Last year was a strange one, weather-wise, for all types of crops, including pastures. Flooding was widespread in the Midwest, followed by drought that hit a lot of the Central and Southern Plains as well as the mid-South.
Hopefully, this year will be one of recovery, says Roxanne Gutschenritter, a pasture and range specialist for DuPont Crop Protection. At the 2012 Cattle Industry Convention, she shared advice with beef producers for bringing pastures back to full production after floods, droughts, or both.
Some pastures got grazed off much shorter than they should have been grazed, right to ground level, says Guschenritter. Now if precipitation is coming, the first thing you need to do is watch for winter annual weeds to show up.
“They’ll be the first things to grow in these pastures, and they’ll be more aggressive than your pasture grasses,” she says. They could include weeds such as marestail, broomweed, and buttercup. Thistles, while not considered a winter annual, may also take advantage of the low early competition from grasses.
“If you see aggressive weeds, get them early with an effective herbicide,” she continues. “I like to get them at 2 to 4 inches tall, before they get ahead of the grass. Weeds start to compete at a very small size. But herbicides are very effective when weeds are small and in a stage of fast growth.”
The herbicide of choice in DuPont’s lineup would be Cimmaron Max in many areas, she says.
In southern bermudagrass grazing areas, DuPont has a product called Pastora that is effective at controlling grass weeds like little barley, or ryegrass. “They can just cover over a bermudagrass stand,” says Guschenritter.
This wouldn’t be a time to early-graze a pasture, while it’s recovering from drought stress, she says. “Usually, you didn’t lose your stand of pasture grasses to drought, it’s just been really knocked back and will take time to recover. Once it’s back and growing good, you should be able to graze normally.”
If your pastures were in a flood zone last year, you’ve got different problems in recovery, but it still starts with observation. “Get out there and look closely to see what you have coming back in a pasture,” says Guschenritter. “Flood waters move things, including weed seeds. You might see some species you haven’t seen before, a new landscape of weeds brought in from somewhere else. Figure out what you have, then address the problem.”
Thistles are one to especially look for, she says. “When they are actively growing is a good time to go after them with a herbicide. That’s usually in the spring, or the fall.
“The most important thing is to get out there and be observant in pastures. If you wait until it’s time to turn the cows out, it’s too late to enact the best weed control.”
New help coming
Guschenritter also says that her company is actively working on a new class of pasture and rangeland herbicides, and will be bringing it to market in the next couple of years. While not named yet, the chemical is from a class called aminocyclopyrachlor.
“It’s active on some species that we don’t have much else for,” she says. Among them are mesquite, leafy spurge, and invasive lespedeza.
“We have to make our pastures more productive, to compete with other crops. We’re going to have more and better tools to do that, and this new product will help.”