Spring Weedy Grass Control in Grass Hay and Pasture

Considerations for weedy grass and broadleaf control options in grass forages during early spring.

From Penn State Extension

The forsythia is starting to bloom. This is a great natural indication that it is time to make applications of residual herbicides to control germinating summer annual weeds, especially grasses. We are receiving more calls about how to control weedy annual grasses such as crabgrass, foxtails, panicum, Japanese stiltgrass, etc. and others in grass forage settings. Unfortunately, these weedy grasses start to germinate at different times in the spring. Japanese stiltgrass can germinate in early spring a couple weeks or more before crabgrass and the other species, thus an early application of pendimethalin will be necessary for initial control. Large crabgrass and the other mentioned grass species typically start to germinate around 200 GDD (growing degree days), however, Japanese stiltgrass begins its germination much earlier. Currently, pendimethalin (Prowl H2O and Satellite HydroCap) is an option to consider for controlling certain annual grasses and broadleaf weeds in cool and warm season forage grass settings.

Prowl H2O or Satellite HydroCap may be applied to established perennial forage grasses (including Kentucky bluegrass, bromegrass, tall fescue, orchardgrass, perennial ryegrass, timothy, switchgrass, and others) grown for forage, green chop, silage, hay production, and/or grown in pastures for livestock grazing.

  • Apply at a broadcast rate of 1.1 to 4.2 quarts of product per acre in a single application or sequential applications made 30 or more days apart. Herbicide must be applied before weed germination in spring, or in-season between cuttings, otherwise weeds will not be controlled. These products may be tank-mixed with other labeled herbicides, but keep in mind nothing is labeled for control of emerged grasses in grass forage.
  • Split applications of pendimethalin are better than a single, high-rate early season application. Make the first application in early spring (mid-March to early April) but before weed germination (2-3 pt/A); and then the second application right after first (or second) cutting (3-4 pt/A).
  • These herbicides may be applied to mixed stands of established cool-season forage grasses and alfalfa (established alfalfa is defined as alfalfa planted in fall or spring which has gone through a first cutting/mowing). Do not apply to mixed stands of cool-season forage grasses with other forage legumes (e.g., clover) besides alfalfa.
  • There is no preharvest or pre-grazing interval for pendimethalin-treated grass forage, green chop, silage, hay, or pasture.
  • Mixed stand alfalfa/cool-season forage grasses may be grazed or harvested for forage or hay 14 or more days after application.

Keep in mind that pendimethalin products do not control established perennials like roughstalk bluegrass (Poa trivialis) which is becoming more of a problem in small grain and forage fields across the state. Fall and early spring are the best times to apply effective herbicides to control this weed; but unfortunately there are no effective products that control roughstalk bluegrass in grass forages. However, in alfalfa settings, the use of Gramoxone/paraquat, Raptor, or Select/clethodim after the first cutting generally provides 85-90% control.

Also, now is the time to scout grass pastures and hay in search of winter annual and biennial weeds.  Both of these types of weeds are potentially susceptible to control right now and an effective herbicide application will prevent flowering and seed production.  Management of perennial weeds such as dandelion, Canada thistle and the woody perennials such as multiflora rose and autumn olive is best performed a bit later in early summer after plants reach the bud-to-bloom stage. Winter annuals including the mustard species, common chickweed, horseweed/marestail, deadnettle/henbit, fleabane, etc. are growing rapidly and have already or will begin to flower and set seed very soon. Biennials including musk and plumless thistle, burdock, wild carrot, etc. should be treated before they begin to bolt and the smaller the better. (Late fall or early spring is really the best time to treat them).  The most common herbicides used for control of many broadleaf weeds in grass hay/pasture this time of year are the plant growth regulator herbicides such as 2,4-D ± dicamba (Clarity, etc.), triclopyr products (Crossbow, Remedy Ultra, etc.), and clopyralid (Stinger, PastureGard, etc.). In addition, products containing metsulfuron (Cimarron, other generic formulations, etc.) can provide good control of many broadleaf weeds in the spring. (Be cautious, if forage grasses were recently seeded and are not yet established many of these herbicides can cause severe crop injury.) Refer to Table 2.6-11 in the 2021-22 Penn State Agronomy Guide  for ratings of these herbicides on many different weed species.

One thought on “Spring Weedy Grass Control in Grass Hay and Pasture

  1. Great information. I have a customer who has good results with Prowl H20 early spring and i see it is good later. Is there another option for control of sandbur in established pasture. Mainly in B Dahl bluestem. I also have customers who struggle with sandbur in bermuda as well. Thanks for any help

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