Weed management on small acres impacted by current growth, desired use
Worland – “We usually define small acreage as less than an acre up to 25 acres,” remarked Jarrod Glanz, Washakie County Weed and Pest supervisor, during a presentation at WESTI Ag Days in Worland on Feb. 20.
“When we ask ourselves about small acreage and weed control, first we have to ask ourselves, what is a weed?” he continued.
Weeds can be defined in a number of ways, but for the purposes of his presentation, Glanz described them as growing plants that someone doesn’t want, a plant that isn’t valued where it is growing or a plant that is choking out desirable plants.
“What are our weeds telling us? They are there for a reason, and they may be telling us we are doing something right, doing something wrong or that something needs to be adjusted,” he said.
The first step in controlling weeds, according to Glanz, is taking an inventory of the acreage to find out what species are present and what the target species are. He also recommends making a plan ahead of time to control and manage weeds.
“Most people don’t succeed if they don’t have a plan,” he noted.
One of the first things for producers to consider when creating a plan is their intention for the acreage. Promoting healthy pasture may require a different approach than improving animal performance, creating a landscaped area or growing certified crops or seed.
“There is a difference between a corral and a pasture,” he remarked.
Glanz recommended an integrated pest management plan, using a combination of techniques to tackle weed problems, saying, “No one weed management activity works alone.”
Glanz also outlined four steps for a weed control plan, including prevention, detection, control and restoration.
“If we don’t prevent weeds, it will cost us more time, work and money in the long run. But we also have to ask ourselves how practical prevention is on our small acres. If we’ve owned the land for quite a few years and we know what’s out there, it’s very practical. If we’ve just acquired the property, it might not be as practical until we know what we have,” he explained.
To begin with, weeds can be introduced from many different sources, such as the existing soil seed bank, irrigation systems, feed or bedding.
“Wind will move seed around. We also need to watch our seed mixes and seed longevity,” he continued.
Spotted knapweed, for example, can leave seeds in the soil that are viable for over 50 years, waiting for the right conditions to germinate.
Discussing the second step, detection, Glanz asked, “What are we trying to control in the pasture? Do we want grass or not want grass? Do we want broadleaf species? Are our weeds annual, perennial or biannual? Are they edible or poisonous to our livestock?”
Recognizing how a problem was caused in the first place is also part of the detection step, evaluating possible causes such as overgrazing, improper watering amounts or other practices.
“Each problem with weeds has a solution, but each individual person may view the situation as a different kind of problem,” Glanz said.
Control can be categorized into four different mechanisms, including cultural, mechanical, biological and chemical, and Glanz suggested reviewing five points to determine which controls will be most effective on the given acreage.
Best management practices, knowing the land, judging the situation, using personal experience and applying the concept of work, time and money may all influence how producers approach weed management.
“How much property do we need for the number of animals we have? Are we making the best choices for the land we have available? What have we learned from our mistakes?” he questioned.
Once weed prevention, detection and control have been implemented on the acreage, restoration can be applied. Restoration goes back to the intended land use and what livestock or crops are going to be utilizing the land.
“Why did we invest in this acreage in the first place?” Glanz asked. “We want to promote our healthy vegetation.”
In Wyoming, weeds can range across a wide variety of plants such as milkweed, black medic, salt cedar, Russian olive, common cocklebur, Kochia or even dandelions. Depending on the situation, any one of these may require different methods of control.
“Common lambsquarters is an annual that can be cultivated in gardens or near waste areas,” Glanz stated as an example.
Common lambsquarters is often a problem for sugarbeet growers in the state, as it is not highly reactive to Roundup and it hosts sugarbeet leafhoppers.
“Weed and Pest recommends using 2,4-D or 2,4-D ester, and if landowners have areas where they want bare ground, larger amounts of Roundup can be effective,” he described.
Glanz also encouraged producers to speak to their local Weed and Pest offices for help with plant identification and control plan design. University Extension offices can also offer assistance for weed management on small acres.
Natasha Wheeler is editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.