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Controlling sericea lespedeza

By David G. Hallauer

Meadowlark District Extension Agent

Used to be that thistles would drive a grass farmer nuts, and sericea lespedeza is now doing the same. Control is possible, but it will take some effort.

While there are no known biological controls that can be effectively used on sericea lespedeza, grazing with goats can suppress stands plus produce a saleable product. It takes four or five goats per acre (of sericea) to graze the plant heavily enough to eliminate seed production.

Frequent mowing will reduce sericea lespedeza, but is also damaging to plants that might be growing/competing with sericea. A single mowing in mid- to late July will eventually reduce stands of sericea lespedeza to some extent. Sericea has not been eliminated, however, even after several years of mowing. A late-summer mowing will eliminate most seed production.

Herbicides applied at the correct time and under favorable environmental conditions can significantly reduce sericea lespedeza. A number of very effective products are available. For a complete list, check with your District Office for a 2011 Chemical Weed Control Guide or your county's noxious weed department. Timing of application can vary significantly for products, so knowing the product you have purchased as well as the stage of the plant's growth is important.

Sericea lespedeza is a statewide noxious weed in Kansas and therefore needs to be controlled. Its tremendous seed bank helps reestablish stands, meaning herbicide treatments will need to be repeated every 2 to 4 years to keep this invasive species in check. Initial treatments may reduce dense stands to the point where spot treatment can be used in the future. Left untreated, sericea lespedeza will dominate a site, greatly reducing forage production and species diversity.

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