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Controlling Texas Wintergrass ("Speargrass") in North Texas Bermuda Pasture

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#1 chetlenox


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Posted 12 April 2011 - 10:44 AM

Hello all,

In the last few years, I've had an increasing amount of Texas Wintergrass (commonly called "speargrass" in my area) in my Coastal pasture.

From: Research & Extension Center Virtual Herbarium - Texas Winter Grass (Nassella leucotricha)
Posted Image

Most of the documentation lists it as a grazable grass (it's a perennial native to Texas), but with those spear-like seeds it's a real mess when it gets into my bales and my customers don't like it. Does anyone have any experience in irradicating this particular weed? It grows along with my early spring grasses and ends up mainly in my 1st cutting (subsequent cuttings of pure coastal don't have any). I'm having a hard time finding any reference to it in the usual Ag Extension documentation.



#2 hay wilson in TX

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Posted 12 April 2011 - 08:35 PM

I can give my unqualified opinion, that you are way over stocked.
TX wintergrass is a sure indicator of over stocking.
Probably want to reduce you stocking rate by a third.

If you want to get a true authority ask DR Barron Rector down at TAMU.
He is not shy about giving us the unvarnished truth. [email protected] You may have to go through your County Agent, and catch him when he is passing through as he is mildly over booked.

If you feel you simply must keep your current stocking rate then spray your pasture with Round UP when you see the FIRST seed head, (singular).

If you feel you must maintain the current stocking rate, then double your fertilizer rate. Maybe double the double rate.

I will not tell you to fertilize according to your soil test.
Put a cage over a square yard of grass and allow the grass to grow with out grazing.
Take a clipping from it several times during the season and have the clippings tested, (Plant Analysis or Tissue analysis).

Pay no attention to your neighbor's pastures.
Do not allow your bermudagrass pasture to be shorter than 4" tall, ever.

I suggest no fewer than 5 acres per cow. No fewer than 7 acres per horse. A little more than one acre per sheep or goat.
WHEN you get your grass in shape then maybe you can increase your stocking rate a little.

I am in the business of growing and selling hay. and I will tell you , if you NEED to feed hay on a regular basis you have way too many animals.

Make a friend of your county agent. Plan to attend the BIG Conference in Waco next February. Maybe the Brazos Valley Hay Producers Butler Field Day at Circle X Ranch 20 May, For sure join the Texas Forage & Grazing Council Forages, American Forage and Grassland Council TXFGC.

#3 chetlenox


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Posted 13 April 2011 - 08:00 AM

Hey HayWilson,

Wow, as always, great response. I screwed up however by not mentioning in my original email that I only bale hay on my little 13 acre pasture and don't stock any cows. I do have a couple of my daughter's ponies that graze it a few hours a day, but I don't think they have a significant impact.

You're response really got me thinking though, that Texas Wintergrass is a sign of overgrazing/under-fertilizing. One thing that I haven't ever done is fertilize my pasture for the first cutting of hay. Since I've always had a mix of wildflowers and some weeds in my first cutting, I've usually just fertilized after my 1st and 2nd cutting every year (according to soil sample). With the weeds and the fact that it's mixed winter grasses, I've just never sold my first cutting of hay for enough per bale to justify spending the money on fertilizer. Maybe that lack of fertilizer has been the source of my Texas Wintergrass growth problem. My first cut is usually around May 1st, although it looks to be a little later this year due to lack of rain in my area.

Do you think I should be fertilizing in early spring (maybe end of March?) to spruce up the growth of my winter grasses and help them outcompete the Texas Wintergrass and other weeds? I'm embarassed to admit that I don't even know what my predominant winter grass is. I've always assumed it's a mix of winter ryegrass and Tall Fescue, but I don't really know for sure. I have a few low level of green patches (pretty minimal) that stay green over the winter, then things green up pretty good starting in early/mid March and I cut at the start of May. After that, of course, the Bermuda starts coming on and I don't really have much of a weed problem. What I really need to do is post a picture of my winter grass and see if somebody on here can ID it for me!

As always, thanks again for the advice Hay Wilson... It's always much appreciated. I wanted to go down to Waco this February but since it's mid-week, it's always a bit tough to take off of work. I haven't heard of the "Butler Field Day" before, what is that all about? I didn't even know the TFGC even existed, I'll check that out.


#4 hay wilson in TX

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Posted 13 April 2011 - 10:22 AM

Venus is in the Blacklands of Texas, but not all Blacklands are the same.

On the black clay here near Temple we can apply too much fertilizer with little or no losses to the usual problems in the Eastern US.

HERE I like to apply most of my fertilizer in the winter. December of January when it is cold, at least the cold we experience in Texas.
The rule of thumb is half of all the nitrogen applied then will be available to the crop this season, the other half becomes part of the residual nitrogen fertility.
Then each season UP TO Half the accumulated residual nitrogen is also available to that season growth.
If fertilizing is stopped for some reason, the grass will have taken up all the accumulated residual after 5 years.
That is the theory, but in practice the nitrogen's effect can persist for much longer.

Now 13 acres is just about right for two ponies, with no need to feed hay. Requires less fertilizer if you do not harvest the grass as hay.
The County Tax Assesor may not approve the Ag Exemption for equine, but you could put one maybe two Barbado Sheep to graze and retain the Ag Exemption.

#5 Tx Jim

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Posted 09 July 2014 - 07:41 AM

Although over grazing can aid the Tx Winter grass I've seen Tx Winter grass infestation where no domesticated livestock has grazed in years. 12 oz of glyphosate per acre will solve the problem 

#6 mac10-45


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Posted 20 August 2014 - 11:14 AM

Chet, I too have this problem. I have 24 acres that I bale coastal Bermuda on usually 3 times a year. My farm is about 40 miles north of downtown Dallas. I have sprayed my hay field 3 times over the years with Roundup when the hay was dormant. I usually did it in Dec. or Jan. I have tried rates of .75  qt./ acre and 1 qt./ acre, & 1.25 qt./ acre. This last winter I did a controlled burn and after a rain to wash the burned residue off I sprayed it with the 47% Roundup. I have added surfactant and used about 22 gallons of water per acre. It didn't kill all of it just about 40-50%. If the weather cooperates, I'll probably do it again this winter. When I don't do anything it gets worse every year.

No one has any information, I have done this on my own. I don't graze any animals on this land, I fertilizer in the late winter/early spring before the first cutting, and after each cutting when the prospect of rain is good. I have soil tests every few years and they state need more nitrogen and phosphorus. My first cutting this year made 90 round bales 5 ft X 5.5 ft. I put out about 200 pounds per acre of 18.46.0. The 1st cutting was late, around the 1st week of July because of off & on rain in the forecast. I fertilized again on 7-14-2014 with about 288 pounds of 18.46.0 and only made 40 rolls last week on 8-15-2014.  Go figure! I guess I need a soil test.

I have had good rains this year, better than the last 3-4 years. Another thing, I usually spray Grazon P+D around April 15 each year . This year I didn't have many big weeds because of the burn and the Roundup. I did spray Grazon in late June where I had plowed a fire break around the edge of my hay field. I had a lot of weeds in that strip that germinated late.

I wish someone could recommend a chemical that would kill the spear grass (TX Winter grass) and not the coastal to be sprayed in the spring/summer. Until then I'll keep spraying Roundup in the winter.


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