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Fall management of pastures key to spring success

By Missy Hodgin
AgriLife Extension Agent

Impacts of the 2011 drought are still being realized.  Last spring cool-season grasses overwhelmed the weakened warm-season forages, causing producers problems throughout this year.  Although this year was a better year for rain as compared to 2011, producers are still encouraged to continue their drought recovery efforts to help booster next spring’s warm-season production.  Management from this point forward will impact continued drought recovery of pastures.

Last year warm-season forages experienced significant stand failures.  The drought caused an influx of cool-season grasses which shaded and impeded the growth of the warm-season pastures.  Some stands experienced complete failure.

The same scenario could happen again this fall and winter.  Warm-season grasses have not fully recovered from the 2011 drought, allowing ample opportunity for cool-season forages to take hold, provided there is good moisture availability.  Knowing that another cool-season flush is possible, producers can manage to take advantage of the cool-season forages for their benefit by managing the warm-season grasses now and then grazing the cool-season forages in the winter to reduce their competition with the warm-season grasses in the spring.

For all warm-season perennial grasses, the time from August to frost is crucial for the plants to build carbohydrate reserves for spring growth.  If possible, allow weak stands of Bermuda grass and native grass to rest from grazing during the fall to give them a chance to “put on leaf growth” prior to frost.  Leaving 6 to 10 inches of residual leaf growth on native grass and 4 to 6 inches on Bermuda grass will provide benefits to the plant and help suppress cool-season grasses.  Taking this step now should pay dividends next spring.

Producers should take advantage of cool-season grasses as they provide excellent forage for grazing.  Pastures that had cool-season forages last winter should be specifically targeted this year.  Doing this serves a dual purpose: it helps the producer and the warm season forages.

Fall is also a good time to improve their weed control program for next year by taking a weed inventory.  At this stage in the growing cycle, weeds are large enough to see, and most will have seed heads or fruiting parts that make them easier to identify.  If there are a lot of weeds in a certain place this year, they will probably be in the same place next year.  Taking a weed inventory allows producers to target the difficult spots and develop a plan that can save money.

Conducting a weed survey begins by identifying the species and abundance of each weed.  The abundance rating system can be as simple as “few,” “scattered,” or similar descriptions.  Producers should then mark this information on a field map and highlight areas where there are hard-to-control weeds or particularly high numbers of weeds.  Accurately identifying areas that can be spot-sprayed will save time and money.

Once a weed inventory has been conducted, a spray plan and budget can be worked out that includes the correct herbicides to use and when to use them.  Taking a weed inventory can ensure that you spray what you want to spray, where you want to spray and control what you want to control.

For more information about these topics contact the AgriLife Extension office, Clay County, at (940) 538-5042.


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The Pioneer Sentinel is an online newspaper designed to deliver the news of Clay County, Texas, in a concise and community-friendly format.

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