– Christine Gelley, Agriculture and Natural Resources Educator, Noble County OSU Extension
With the combination of sunny warm days and more than adequate rainfall received so far in May, grasses and legumes in our hayfields are beginning to flower. Which means, according to our knowledge of grass maturity and forage quality, it’s already time to make hay. If the weather will cooperate, that is.
It’s also prime time to control pasture weeds. Thistles, docks, ironweed, asters, poison hemlock, and cockleburs are up and actively growing. Control on these species is most effective when they are small (less than six inches tall). Many are already past this point. The longer we wait, the greater impact they will have on overall production and the more difficult they will be to treat in both hayfields and grazed pastures.
The decision of how and when to wage war on damaging weeds is one based on many factors. Extension always recommends utilizing an integrated pest management program to control pests and weeds. The most effective programs are a combination of cultural, mechanical, and chemical control.
Weeds are a symptom of pasture weaknesses. These could be related to soil moisture, pH, fertility, erosion, compaction, or poor harvest methods. In order to make progress on weed treatment, we have to strengthen the health of our soils and desired species.
Step one is always to address soil fertility. Step two is species I.D. Step three is deciding on a treatment method. Some weeds are simply annoying, while others can be seriously hazardous for animals and people. Before attempting a treatment, get a confirmed I.D.
Your county extension office is here to help you. Whether you need a soil probe to do a test, help with interpreting results, weed identification assistance, or more information about selecting the best treatment for you, call or stop by to visit with your county extension educator for personalized consultation.
Also, for help with identifying several weeds common in Ohio pasture and forage fields, see the video below by now retired OSU Extension Educator Mark Landefeld.