Broomsedge Bluestem common in many pastures across Kansas
By David G. Hallauer
Meadowlark District Extension Agent, crops, soils, horticulture
Broomsedge Bluestem is warm season native perennial grass common on many pasture sites across northeast Kansas. Right now, its pretty easy to see as that bright orange grass about 12 to 18 inches tall that stands in sharp contrast to the shorter cool season species now beginning to green up. And while it may give the appearance, both by its presence and name, of being a forage desirable in your pasture or hay meadow, it is quite the opposite.
While Broomsedge is a Bluestem (Andropogon family), it shares few of the desirable characteristics of Big or Little Bluestem that we commonly associate with native grass plantings. It does have some nesting value for wildlife, but outside of that, it's a poor species for most all species of livestock and has little value even as even food for wildlife. In fact, it is seldom even consumed outside of intensive grazing systems in the early spring or fall when it is small.
Broomsedge Bluestem tends to show up in areas where a nutrient deficiency exists. Phosphorous is the typical culprit. What can you do about it? The first step is to soil test. After hay harvest or the grazing season is complete, pull soil samples from the pasture/hay field for testing. Once a fertilizer rate is determined via soil test, you will need to continue recommended applications for at least a few years before you see much of a change in the amount of Broomsedge in the grass stand. Even after that, fertilizer should not be reduced unless warranted by a soil test, so that Broomsedge does not return.
Now is an excellent time for producers to take a quick look at their pastures/hay meadows to monitor for the presence of Broomsedge Bluestem. Start making plans now to improve grass stands by getting rid of this troublesome grass species.
If you've got plants with little purple flowers starting to make themselves known in home lawns--you have henbit. Not sure that's what you have? Check the stems. They will be square. And while it comes up in the fall, most people do not pay much attention to this weed until it starts to flower. Trying to kill it at this late stage with an herbicide is usually a waste of time and money. Though the plant may be burned back, it will rarely be killed. So what do we do? Remember, this is a winter annual; it comes up in the fall, matures in the spring and dies as soon as it starts to get hot. All that we can do now is keep it mowed until nature takes its course.
Next fall, we can do something. Henbit usually germinates about mid-October. Spraying with 2,4-D, Weed-B-Gon, Weed Free Zone, Weed Out, or Trimec in early November can go a long way toward eliminating henbit next spring. The plants are small during the fall and relatively easy to control. Choose a day that is at least 50 degrees F so the henbit is actively growing and will take up the chemical. Spot treating will probably be needed in the spring to catch the few plants that germinate late. Use Weed Free Zone, Speed Zone, Weed Out, Weed-B-Gon, Trimec, or one of the special henbit herbicides early before the henbit has put on much growth.