UF/IFAS researchers work to combat pasture weed

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — According to University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researchers, spiderwort is becoming more common in north Florida, where it has the potential to invade pastures and disrupt hay production.

Professors Jason Ferrell and Brent Sellers, and biological scientist Michael Durham have co-authored a new UF/IFAS Extension document (http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/ag407) explaining how to control the weed.

Notable for its purple flowers, spiderwort is often seen on roadsides and undisturbed areas, said Ferrell. Though this plant has been in Florida for a long time, “it’s now becoming more common to see it in pasture and feedlot areas. People are starting to wonder what it is and what they need to do about it,” he said.

Cattle will not eat spiderwort. When hay is harvested, any spiderwort that gets into the bales will add extra moisture and spoil the hay, Ferrell added.

When people started calling in and asking how to get rid of spiderwort on their properties, Ferrell and Sellers set up an experiment to find out how best to control it.

They found that the most effective chemical treatment controlled spiderwort for four to six weeks, after which the plants reappeared. Though they did not discover a treatment that completely eliminated the weed, they recommend that producers use this four- to six-week period to harvest their hay.

According to Sellers, spiderwort is more of an issue in north Florida and is less common in the south.

The best way to get rid of the plant is to remove it by hand, Ferrell said. However, “that is a very difficult, tedious process,” especially when one stand of spiderwort contains hundreds of plants, he said.

UF/IFAS Agronomy Photo by Michael Durham

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By: Samantha Grenrock, 352-294-3307, grenrosa@ufl.edu

Sources: Jason Ferrell, 352-392-7512, jferrell@ufl.edu

Brent Sellers, 863-735-1314 ext. 207, sellersb@ufl.edu