LSU AgCenter forage specialist Ed Twidwell left and weed scientist Ron Strahan show field day attendees broomsedge on April 29 at the LSU AgCenter Bob R JonesIdlewild Research Station in Clinton

LSU AgCenter forage specialist Ed Twidwell, left, and weed scientist Ron Strahan show field day attendees broomsedge on April 29 at the LSU AgCenter Bob R. Jones-Idlewild Research Station in Clinton.

Cover crops benefit pastures, extend grazing season

Cattlemen attending a recent field day at the LSU AgCenter Bob R. Jones-Idlewild Research Station in Clinton, La. heard about ways to better manage pastures, including the use of cover crops, which can benefit soil health and extend the grazing season.

They can be planted in mixtures with other crops like ryegrass, wheat and oats, said AgCenter forage specialist Ed Twidwell.

Cover crops like hairy vetch, Austrian winter peas, radishes and turnips can be planted in early to mid-September. Clovers can be planted in October and may provide grazing until early summer.

“You can extend ryegrass grazing way past May and probably into June,” Twidwell said. “When you sit down and calculate everything out, if you can get more grazing from your winter forages rather than having to feed a lot of hay during the winter and spring, it may be cost-effective.”

Although clover seed is generally more expensive than early-season cover crops, it has the added benefit of improving nitrogen in the soil, Twidwell said.

WEED PROBLEMS

AgCenter weed scientist Ron Strahan talked about common weed problems in pastures, including smutgrass, which tends to crop up in grazing areas with compacted soil. Smutgrass has deep roots and is drought-tolerant but can be controlled with the herbicide Velpar.

Dogfennel, a perennial broadleaf weed often found along fencerows and a heavy seed producer, is one of the top five weeds in pastures today, Strahan said. A spring application of 2,4-D is effective if the weed is less than 6 inches tall. Grazon P+D or GrazonNext should be used when dogfennel matures.

Buttercup, another common pasture weed, can also be treated with 2,4-D. Lantana is becoming more of a problem, Strahan said, and can be removed with Grazon P+D.

Broadcast applications of Grazon P+D also work on Chinese tallow trees that are 3 to 4 feet tall. Larger trees should be killed with the “hack and squirt” herbicide application method, with Tordon RTU applied at each cut, Strahan said.

There is not yet a good herbicide option for broomsedge, which is often found in areas with low fertility, but clipping the weed seems to help control it, he said.

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