How do I control crabgrass in a Pensacola bahiagrass hay field?
Answer: The best way to control crabgrass in bahiagrass is to increase all of the environmental factors that favor the growth of the bahiagrass. Unfortunately, there aren’t any herbicide options available in a pasture or grazing system that will control crabgrass post-emergent, unless spot spraying is an option. Prowl H2O is a pre-emergent option in bahiagrass fields. Ensuring adequate fertilizer, soil pH, water, and grazing/cutting management will ultimately allow the bahiagrass to outcompete the crabgrass. Crabgrass is generally a summer annual and has a shorter lifespan than bahiagrass, so each year producers should see less and less crabgrass in their pastures as the bahiagrass continues to spread.
On a positive note, crabgrass offers more nutritive value to livestock than bahiagrass and bermudagrass, and there are commercial varieties available for both grazing and hay types. Research in North Florida resulted in average daily gains (ADGs) of 1.1-1.9 lb/day in yearling cattle fed crabgrass hay, and improved cultivars can produce as much as 5 tons of dry matter per acre. It will reseed itself if managed correctly, and there are no major pests or disease problems noted. Crabgrass tolerates a wide pH range and intense defoliation (3 inch stubble height). Although seed can be difficult to source, the recommended varieties for Florida are ‘Red River’ and ‘Quick and Big’. The most common crabgrass found naturally in Florida include the ‘Large’ and ‘Hairy’ varieties. It performs well in sandy soils, and fits into grazing systems that utilize other annuals, such as ryegrass, oats, rye, or wheat.