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Managing Broomsedge in Pastures

What is Broomsedge Bluestem?

Broomsedge bluestem, Andropogon virginicus L., is a native warm season perennial bunch grass that prefers to grow in areas with sandy, moist soils that have low fertility.  It is considered to be an indicator plant, and is commonly found in soils with low phosphorus availability.  It has a small/shallow root system, grows 2-4 feet tall, and is a quickly growing plant.  Seeds germinate in the spring after soil temperatures begin to exceed 55°F.  Plants require 2-3 years of growth before producing seed.                     .      

How do I control Broomsedge in my Pasture?

Once established, broomsedge can be very difficult to remove from a pasture.  However, and integrated management can be successful.  By using herbicide and forage management techniques, farmers and ranchers can create a strategy to effectively control broomsedge and help promote the growth of more desirable plants.  Here are some tools and tricks to help producers remove this plant from the landscape;

  1. Soil Fertility- This plant is considered an indicator of poor soil fertility, specifically phosphorus (P).  However, broomsedge in pastures does not necessarily mean that P is low, it could signal that the soil pH is so acidic it is causing the P to be unavailable to more desirable plants.  Competition between grasses is a key issue when broomsedge begins to take over because it grows so tall and shades the lower growing grasses.  By fixing any soil pH and fertility issues, producers are allowing the desirable grasses to have a better chance of out competing the broomsedge.
  2. Grazing- Broomsedge does well in over-utilized, under-managed pastures where selective grazing by animals has decreased the amount of favorable grasses.  If given the option, animal will choose bahia or bermuda (for exsample) over mature Broomsedge.  If left unchecked, over time the constant grazing pressure and low soil fertility will eventually lead to a stand loss of bahia while exponentially helping the Broomsedge to out-compete and take over a pasture.  To use grazing as a management tool, producers should heavily graze Broomsedge invaded areas in the earyl-mid spring when the Broomsedge is young and palatable.  This will lead to Broomsedge stand decrease because animals will consume it in the vegetative state and the plants will not be able to reach a reproductive state.  However, management must be utilized to avoid overgrazing of the desirable grasses as well.
  3. Herbicides- currently there aren’t many herbicide options except for ones that contain glyphosate.  Spot spraying or wicking Broomsedge before it reaches maturity is a good way to control the plant.  Broomsedge will generally reach maturity ans set seed by late summer/fall, and herbicide application before this makes it much more effective as the plant is still actively growing

If you have more questions, please contact your local University Extension Agent.

Picture Credits (Left to Right)

James Miller, Forest and Kim Star, and North Carolina State University.