Timing is the key

Cattle on pasture at UT East Tennessee AgResearch and Education Center

University of Tennessee Extension forage specialists say timing is key to pasture management. Photo courtesy UTIA.

Most Tennessee producers will label weeds as the most cumbersome problem they face in their pastures.  While fields filled with buttercups in spring may offer aesthetic benefits to passersby, to producers they are simply a pest.

Gary Bates, University of Tennessee professor of plant sciences and director of the UT Beef and Forage Center, says that getting rid of weeds is a matter of timing.

“Nuisances like buttercups are easily removed with herbicides, but many producers don’t think about spraying weed killers until it is too late for spraying to be effective,” said Bates. He recommends producers pay attention to the following concerns to help them control buttercup and similar pasture pests.

1.  Spray.  Buttercup and thistle need to be sprayed before they bloom. Three days of 60 degrees F or higher temperatures are needed to activate weed growth, so pay attention to weather patterns. If leaves show damage from recent frost, wait for new growth.

2.  What to spray? Bates recommends the ester formulation of 2,4-D as an effective weed killer.  However, there are several brand names and formulations of 2,4-D, so read the label to make sure you are getting the proper chemical.

3.  How much to spray? Most brands of 2,4-D are formulated with four pounds of active ingredient per gallon. With this formulation, two pints per acre in at least 20 gallons of water per acre will be successful.  Be sure to read and follow all label instructions.

4.  Do control measures affect clover? This rate of 2,4-D will kill all red clover, but will do minimal damage to established white clover.  Do not seed clover for six weeks after herbicide application.

For more information, contact your
local county UT Extension agent or visit the UT Beef and Forage Center website: http://utbfc.utk.edu

UT Extension provides a gateway to the University of Tennessee as the outreach unit of the UT Institute of Agriculture. With an office in every Tennessee county, UT Extension delivers educational programs and research-based information to citizens throughout the state. In cooperation with Tennessee State University, UT Extension works with farmers, families, youth and communities to improve lives by addressing problems and issues at the local, state and national levels.



Gary Bates, UT Beef and Forage Center, 865-974-7208, gbates@utk.edu


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