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Alabama Forages

Broomsedge: What causes it to come into a pasture? How can I get rid of it?

Broomsedge is a weedy grass that is commonly found in pastures. Although not a highly competitive species, it can be perceived as such in many pastures/hayfields across Alabama. Broomsedge is an opportunistic plant; it takes advantages of situations that decrease competitiveness of desirable forage plants.

Two conditions favor broomsedge invasion: (1) poor soil fertility and (2) inadequate grazing pressure.

(1) When soil fertility and/or soil pH are not appropriate for active growth of desired forage plants, broomsedge often becomes a problem. Pastures depleted of nutrients or with highly acidic soils create conditions unfavorable for growth of most forage crops. At the same time, these soil conditions are favorable for broomsedge growth and competitiveness, causing it to become a problem in pastures.

Maintaining soil fertility and pH  is your best option  for controlling broomsedge emergence. If broomsedge is already a problem, bringing soil fertility and pH back to the recommended level based on soil test recommendations is the first step!

(2) Inadequate grazing or defoliation pressure during the beginning of the growing season for broomsedge can also favor this plant. Cattle will actively graze broomsedge when it is producing young vegetative growth. Early in the growing season broomsedge is quite palatable and continued defoliation at this stage will help decrease plant vigor. However, as broomsedge is allowed to mature, it becomes highly fibrous and unpalatable and cattle will not eat it. Inadequate defoliation pressure reduces stress on the broomsedge while increasing stress on desirable forage plants, therefore creating a competitive advantage for the broomsedge.

Following step one (correcting soil fertility and pH issues) increased defoliation pressure either through increased stocking rates, or regular clippings will weaken existing broomsedge plants and cause them to be much less competitive.

Remember: Your pastures didn't get in poor condition overnight and won't be fixed that quickly either. Having regular soil tests and maintaining soil health and fertility will help keep broomsedge problems at bay. The length of time required to correct broomsedge infestations will vary greatly depending on the extent of defoliation and fertilization and the initial health of the established broomsedge.

*Prepared by Jennifer M. Johnson, Ph.D, Extension Agronomist, Alabama Cooperative Extension System